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Friday, 4 April 2014

Rooko's April Top 10 Tryouts & Tips

1. My local weather forecast this evening was of wind and rain showers over this coming weekend. Also mentioning sub-tropical conditions prior to some frosty conditions next week. Make sure you have got some cloches or other protective coverings handy, to protect those delicate seedlings that may already be growing on your plot or in your garden. Late frosts can still be a problem well into May.

2. If you have a garden pond containing various aquatic plants, April is the time to divide water lilies and other plants. Re-plant the divided plants into pots of aquatic compost.

3. April is a good time to start planting Summer flowering bulbs. Beware of planting them into wet ground or add sharp sand to the planting area if it is wet.

4. Start making up those home made sprays to combat aphids, more of which will start to appear as the weather becomes, (hopefully warmer). Or alternatively plant some of the following that should deter aphids, Onions, Radish, Petunias, Garlic, Coriander, Chives, Anise.

5. A good time to sow vegetable seeds, after the ground has been prepared, is during showery or misty weather. "Watering in" the seeds should then not be necessary.

6. Strawberry plants being grown outside can be covered with cloches to encourage earlier fruiting.

7. FREE TOMATO SEEDS (from Heinz Ketchup U.K.). You have to "like" their facebook page.
CLICK HERE (to go to the linking page).

8. Go to beneva.com for your monthly chance to win some roses (U.S. and Canada).
CLICK HERE to go to their page.

9. New lawns can be sown in April and established lawns will benefit from having any bare patches re-seeded this month.

10.
SOWING/PLANTING IN APRIL
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.
OTHER JOBS IN APRIL
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.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Now And Then

10 days ago the main road between Taunton, where I live, and Glastonbury (across the Somerset Levels), was passable for the first time since the flooding began across Somerset, before Christmas. Many householders not far from here are just returning to their flooded properties for the first time this week. It still takes a lot of imagination to realize just how much rainwater has been soaked up into the ground. As my regular readers will know, both my plots are at the lower south end of a gentle slope on our allotments. The weather for the past 2 weeks or so has been without rain, mostly sunny and breezy, except for the past few days with some rain and hail showers and lowering temperatures Sowing and planting this year for me is later than usual, as most of the soil on my plots is still wet and compacted. Having prepared all the beds, ready for sowing and planting by the end of last November,  I am currently having to repeat most of that preparation. The soil on most of the plots has been well compacted by rain and flooding since November last. Aerating,  turning and lifting the soil on the majority of beds is a priority at the moment so that it eventually dries out proportionately. Since the heavy Winter rain stopped I have spent most days down my plots resurrecting the soil conditions of last November. For the first time in 5 years I had carried out very few visits to my plots over the Winter period and D.I.Y at home became a priority, out of the rain.

From November 3rd 2013 the following calendar of unplanned events unfolded.
3rd & 4th November 13 (raining).
5th November 13 - cleaned bamboo canes, composted 2014 Brassicas bed N1 Plot.
6th 7th 8th 9th November 13 (raining).
10th November 13 - Removed Runner bean plants & their supports (canes) N1 Plot.
11th November (raining).
12th November 13 - 2nd batch of Onion sets planted, tidied up rubbish from plots.
13th November 13 - Filled final raised bed with soil N2 Plot.
14th November 13 - Cold weather stayed home.
15th November 13 - Cleared walkway around shed N2 Plot of debris, constructed a rainwater butt, cleaned more bamboo canes.
16th November 13 - Broad beans sown N2 Plot.
17th November to 29th November 13 - (raining).
30th November to 5th December 13 - Digging L-Shaped bed N1 Plot, leaf clearing, cane cleaning.
9th December to 13th December 13- Fence painting back garden.
14th to 18th December 13 - (raining).
18th to 26th December 13 - Christmas arrangements, (mainly raining).
27th December 13 - Checked plots for flooding and other damage, (raining).
28th December 13 - Tidied up debris and compost heaps.
29th December 13 to 1st January 14 - (raining).
2nd January 14 - Checked plots added more compost to Brassicas bed N1 Plot.
3rd January 14 to 6th February 14 - (raining).
7th February 14 - Checked on plots.
8th February 14 to 14th February 14 - (raining).
15th February 14 - Checked on plots.
16th February 14 to 18th February 14 (Sunny).
19th February 14 - Dug 1st Runner bean trench. Turned compost heaps.
20th & 21st February 14 - (rained).
22nd February 14 - Runner beans potted up.
23rd to 26th February 14 - D.I. Y.
27th & 28th February 14 - Heavy overnight rain.
1st March 14 - Ground too wet to work on again.
2nd March 14 - Fine weather a.m. Potting p.m.
3rd & 4th March 14 - (raining) D.I.Y.
5th to 8th March 14 - Turned and lifted roots bed N1 Plot.
10th March 14 - Thinned overwintered Onions, turned Leek/Onion bed N1 Plot.
11th March 14 - Fixed some storm damage both plots.
12th & 13th March 14 - Cleared main bed N2 Plot of annual weeds.
14th March 14 - Cleared Brassica bed of annual weeds. Dug 2nd Runner bean trench.
15th March 14 - Strimming grass, rotorvating, weeding, potting.
16th March 14 - Rotorvating, Pea sowing.
17th March 14 - Top bed (Roots) turned N1 Plot.
18th March 14 - Potting various seeds. (weather damp & drizzly).
19th March 14 -Turning top bed (Roots) N1 Plot, potting seeds, turned soil in raised beds & weeded.
20th March 14 - Turning top bed (Roots) N1 Plot, potting seeds. Added more soil to the last raised bed.
21st March 14 - Planted Primroses in front garden border a.m. Turning top bed (Roots) N1 Plot, p.m.
22nd March 14 - Turning top bed (Roots) N1 Plot. (Sunny, breezy, cold, hailstones).

During the "rainy season days" 57 individual D.I.Y. tasks were completed around my house and on my cars and garage, plus another 23. The list goes on.

Roots Bed 2014 N1 Plot
2014 Roots Bed N1 Plot Weeded Turned & Lifted Drying Out Well 22/3/14

Leek & Onion Bed N1 Plot
Leek & Onion Bed N1 Plot Still Wet Compacted From Flooding (22/3/14)

Leeks 2014
Leeks Looking Good Now They Have Had Some Sunshine (22/3/14)

Rhubarb
Rhubarb Looking Good N2 Plot (22/3/14)
Strawberry Bed N1 Plot After Being Flooded
Strawberry Bed N1 Plot Being Aerated/Lifted After It Was Flooded You May Be Able to See the Green Algae On the Area of Soil Which Hasn't Been Dug  (22/3/14)
N1 Roots Bed (2013) Drying Out Nicely
Last Years Roots Bed Top of N1 Plot This is in Good Condition Despite Being Waterlogged (22/3/14)
Moss Replaced the Grass Areas
Where There Was Grass Paths Now It's Moss Lower Part of N1 Plot (22/3/14)
Daffodils Cowslips Bluebells
Bluebells Daffodils & Cowslip on the Drainage Ditch Bank Bed (22/3/14)
Caterpillar
There Are Still Quite a Few Caterpillars Around Despite the Wet Weather (22/3/14)
My Old Car Back in Action Down the Plot
One of the D.I.Y. Tasks I Mentioned, My Old Astra Up and Running Again With the Back Seats Removed. Ideal for Lugging Allotment Equipment Around In and Other Tools etc (22/3/14)

There's Always Tomorrow!!




Sunday, 2 March 2014

Slippery When Wet

Its no use moaning about the wet weather here seeing as the t.v. cameramen and politicians have trickled away from the area now, just a pity they didn't take the rain with them. With a few sunny days last week and the waters on the Somerset levels beginning to recede at last, I continued indoors with some more D.I.Y. mainly clearing out junk from my garage and painting its walls white to brighten the dingy interior. With some more extremely heavy rains overnight on Thursday and Friday and intermittent showers and drizzle in between, my plots are still too wet to achieve any substantial work on them. Saturday was dry, as was this morning, so just before midday I toddled off down to the allotments to pot up various seeds. The drizzly rain started again as I arrived at the allotment gate, I assume just to test my patience further. After donning my wellies and depositing 3 bags of kitchen waste onto my compost heaps, I drained the rusty water from my shed padlocks and unlocked the sheds before tidying up one of my sheds on N2 Plot, so as to give me some extra elbow room to lay out various pots and trays, before adding potting compost to them, (the pots & trays that is, not the elbows).

After potting up several trays full of pots with Runner beans and deciding that open ground would be too wet for any sowing for some time to come, I decided to lift the remaining Carrots from 1 of my raised beds. This raised bed will be covered over with plastic sheeting at my first opportunity and used for more protected seed sowing later. Having finished lifting a reasonable harvest of medium sized and baby Carrots I removed some more of those annual weeds that seem to appear, whatever the weather throws at them, at this time of the year. Using a hand cultivator and working from the grass paths alongside this years potato bed on N2 Plot the majority of weeds were removed within about half an hour or so. By the time I had finished with the weeding even the grass paths were becoming muddy and slippery where I had been walking on them. So even using walking boards across open soil would have been a mistake. At least no sink holes have appeared yet.

Overall the majority of allotments are looking windswept and desolate, with many of them still having various items of gardening equipment strewn around them, after the storms of late. Only 2 or 3 other allotment holders paid short visits to their plots on another dreary, damp afternoon. The lack of bird life was again evident, except for a few Seagulls circling overhead. Probably too rough out over the sea I thought. By 3 p.m. the rain had made a come back so it was time for home. It's 10-30 p.m. now and the heavy rain has just stopped, not for long I fear. I'm listening to the local weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow as I type, more thundery rain overnight and snow tomorrow. Just going to check Google maps to make sure I'm definitely still living in sunny Somerset.

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Rooko's March Top 10 Tryouts & Tips

1. Refresh your houseplants by removing some of their soil and replacing it with some new potting soil.

2. A great variety of plant seeds can be sown this month, both indoors and out. If you are unsure when and how to sow certain seeds check through any seed catalogs you may have, many will tell you when and how to sow seeds.

3. Keep some of your watering cans filled and in a sheltered place. When its time to water delicate seedlings the water being used should be a few degrees warmer, than water straight from the tap. This will help to stop seedlings being "shocked".

4. In my neck of the woods many birds are already looking for nesting sites. If you have built or purchased bird boxes over the Winter months, now is the time to put them outside.

5. Many gardeners will already have sown Tomato seeds somewhere warm. When planting out allow at least 3 feet (92cm) between plants. Remove some of the lower leaves and plant deeply. Add some sturdy stakes immediately after planting.

6. The dreaded job of weeding, if you have weeds appearing in your beds/borders now is the time to remove them (by their roots if possible), before they set seeds, giving you more work later.

7. Prune evergreen shrubs before their growth begins.

8. When your Daffodil flowers begin to fade, dead head them before they set seeds. This will save energy for the bulb hopefully adding it to the next display of flowers.

9. Mulch around trees and shrubs this month. Water in the mulch after adding it, to allow some of the nutrients to wash down to the roots more quickly.

10.
SOWING/PLANTING IN MARCH
1. Any remaining leeks should be lifted now. Pull any remaining parsnips.
2. Plant onions and shallots in mild areas.
3. In mid-March plant out early potatoes.
4. Others to sow this month: Beetroot, Broad beans, Early Carrots (under cloches), Early Peas, Brussels Sprouts (earlies), Kohl-Rabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Peas, Radish,Parsnips, Turnips.
5. Outdoor cucumber & Tomatoes can be sown now and kept in a greenhouse or propagator.
6. Plant fruit bushes/canes. Plant Summer Cabbages, Cauliflower (under cloches).
OTHER JOBS IN MARCH
1. Prune Apple and Pear trees early in the month.
2. Spread compost around the base of fruit trees/ bushes/canes.
3. Use cloches or fleece to warm up the ground prior to planting later.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Day 1

Apart from early January when I planted some Asparagus, visits to my plots has been out of the question due to, oddly enough, what else but rain. After 2 dry and sunny days last Monday & Tuesday I decided to begin this seasons first task last Wednesday on N1 Plot which is the drier of the 2 plots. The majority of ground on both N1 & N2 Plots was still mainly wet and sticky but the standing water of  late has drained away. Too early for sowing my favourite veggie, sweetcorn, I decided to prepare the ground where my 2nd favourite veggie, runner beans, will be situated this season. The main support framework of scaffolding poles is permanently erected, running down the length of the L-shape bed. The intention was to take out 2 trenches, 1 running each side of the poles, which at 8 inches (20 cm), spacing of the plants/seeds, gives me enough growing room for 110 bean plants. I dug out the first trench, taking the top soil out, down to just over a spits depth. Approximately 4 inches (10cm) of sub-soil was then loosened, removed and mixed with the top soil being stacked alongside the trench as it was dug out. When the 1st trench was dug out the base of it was lined with cardboard and shredded paper (brown waste), 6 bin bags full in all was used and will hopefully aid water retention during the long hot dry Summer months ahead. A layer of soil was then added on top of the card & paper. I then retrieved a couple of barrow loads of green waste from one of my soggy poor excuses for a compost heap, mainly brussels sprout stems. These were chopped and crushed with a bill hook and deposited on top of the first layer of soil in the trench. Another layer of soil was then added over the green waste. A marker was placed at each end of the trench to indicate the central line of the trench. This will ensure the plants/seeds are planted/sown immediately above the compost in the trench. By mid-afternoon the rain clouds were gathering again, so I held off on starting the 2nd trench and decided to turn my 2 soggy compost heaps instead, in an attempt to assist them to dry out. With another day of rain and hail today (and an earthquake next door in the Bristol Channel), I doubt if the compost heaps are any drier, but at least one task has been completed. This coming weekends weather is forecast to be dry here, so hopefully the 2nd trench will be finished by the start of next week. 

It was nice to hear several birds twittering and tweeting away, during my visit to the plots, whilst they were hiding away in the nearby hedgerows. Not exactly in full song but the sunny weather for the day, must have been a relief for them. Some wildlife I saw down the plots. 1 large common frog, 3 ladybirds, 1 very large bumble bee, 5 Cole tits and several male blackbirds.

Runner bean trench N1 Plot
1st Runner Bean Trench Dug 19/2/14
Brown waste in trench
Brown Waste Added to Trench 19/2/14
Soil & green waste added to trench
Soil & Green Waste Added on Top of Brown Waste 19/2/14
Trench topped off with soil
Green Waste Topped Off with Soil 19/2/14

There's Always Tomorrow!!  

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