Friday, 27 November 2015

2015 In A Flash

Where's this year gone (and what the heck was I really doing) would sum up my allotment and gardening efforts for 2015. As my readers will already know, I put my house up for sale early this year and prior to that, from about November 2014 until the first week of February this year I was concentrating on preparing that house for sale. The rear garden was re-designed somewhat and various D.I.Y. and decorating jobs done, prior to its sale, so very little "Winter work" got done down my plots. I made the first visit to the plots during the first week of February just after several frosts had abated. One of the first jobs I remember doing was to replace my poly tunnel, damaged by high winds during January. After that a start was made on sowing various seeds into pots and getting them settled into the new poly tunnel. A period of early hot dry weather then did little to aid the germination of some of the seeds, especially 2 different types of tomato seeds. Several weeks later the said seeds still hadn't germinated, so thinking I had used a bad batch of compost, the pots had their contents emptied onto my compost heap. Whilst doing some weeding around my asparagus plants on N1's No1 bed earlier this month I came across a couple of dozen tomato plants about 2 inches in height, happily growing away among the weeds (November???). I had mulched the asparagus with sieved compost earlier. That's what I call "sods law", perhaps an apt term in the gardening world.

 About the second week into March temperatures dropped somewhat, accompanied by heavy rain, which caused me more delays in working the ground down the plots. Frosts persisted into April, despite them, various crops such as, potatoes, beetroot, cabbage, broad beans, spring onions and lettuce were developing well from seed sown earlier. Parsnips also germinated very well this year. By the end of April more brassicas had been planted out, pea plants were doing very well on N2 Plots No 3 bed. Sweetcorn plants were being kept back in the poly tunnel for a later planting out than I usually attempt. Most beds were sown/planted by the end of May after a few weeks of dry weather. The persistently cold North Westerly wind continued, keeping temperatures down. Rainwater stocks were running low. The cold wind continued into June. Runner beans germinated. First tomato plants germinated in the poly tunnel, slow and late. No rain for several weeks again, up until almost the end of July, with the dry conditions adversely affecting oriental greens, turnips, swedes and my water harvesting containers. First sweetcorn harvested 29th July. House sale still not completed.  The usual sowing planting and harvesting continued during most of August and September. Some rain came by the end of August and the first few days of September. Temperatures were dropping noticeably overnight by the first week of September. My house sale concluded on the 1st of October and the move to my new abode went well. Six days later was a family wedding followed, next day, by my bonfire night down the plot. I think that was my last visit to the plot due to various work that requires doing on my current house and garden. With a hospital operation yesterday and another due before Christmas, i think it will be 2016 before I get anything more achieved down my plot. Oh! and the planned breakdown of my lawnmower just prior to Black Friday was a stroke of luck??

Guy Fawkes
Who's This Guy?? (Nov 8th 2015)
Bonfire Night
Starting the Bonfire (8th Nov 2015)
Well lit
Well Lit  (8th Nov 2015)
November Harvest
November Harvest 2015

Summing up: based upon a combination of quality, quantity, ease of growing, cost effectiveness of each crop.

Apples - excellent crop 10 out of 10
Pears - 5/10
Plums - 4/10
Cherries - 5/10 (Good quality, lost most of them during the June drop)
Red currants - 10/10
Black currants - 10/10
White currants - 9/10
Blackberries - 0/10 (1st year)
Blueberries - 4/10
Grapes - 10/10
Grapes white - 3/10 (needed late sun, didn't get any)
Rhubarb - 10/10
Strawberries - 7/10
Raspberries - 4/10
Asparagus - 8/10
Carrots - 15/10
Beetroot - 9/10
Swede - 0/10
Turnips - 2/10
Parsnips - 10/10
Potatoes - 8/10 (Would have been 10 but for high starch content and some blight).
Spring onions - 10/10
Broad beans - 10/10
Sweetcorn - 8/10
Bridgwater beans - 6/10
Runner beans - 5/10
Oriental greens (all) - 0/10
Sprouts - 9/10
Cabbage - 8/10
Lettuce -10/10
Onions - 10/10
Tomatoes - 4/10
Cauliflower - 7/10
Marrows - 8/10
Squashes - 8/10
Courgettes - 8/10
Calabrese - 6/10

There's Always Tomorrow!!  


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

How Many Hours In A Day??

 If things don't change they'll stay the same, well that's no surprise, so what's changed since my last post at the end of July. Well the weather has changed for a start, although its very mild for this time of the year and a little damp caused by recent, frequent early morning mists. I made the first visit to my plots (or should I say plot), today, for a few weeks. I sold my house at the beginning of October and having purchased a bungalow, (still in Taunton), with a rather large rear garden I decided it would be prudent to hand back N2 Plot and utilize my rear garden, turning part of it into a vegetable plot. Moving house, clearing N2 Plot and being involved with the planning of a family wedding for this coming Saturday, (or maybe not, seeing as the bride and groom have just contracted tonsilitis??), has kept me extremely busy over the past month or so. Hopefully things will settle down a little within the next week or so.

2 bed N1 Plot + bonfire
N1 Plot, No 2 Bed + Bonfire October 2015
 N1 Plot now consists of 3 vegetable beds as before 1, 2 and the L-shaped bed, with the fruit cage still in place on No 1 bed. No 2 bed has been turned and covered with plastic sheeting for the Winter, except for the top end of the bed, (North end), where this years bonfire currently stands, awaiting its demise on the 8th of November. No1 bed still has carrots and parsnips left in the ground. I lifted about half a 15 foot row of carrots this afternoon, they were still in very good condition and a good size too. Most of the plot looked slightly neglected with the grass paths and borders needing mowing but being too damp to cut. The inside of the fruit cage requires a good weeding and removal of the fruit bushes foliage which is strewn across the ground, under the bushes. With the runner bean plants still standing on the L-shaped bed, needing to be removed and the lower end of the L-shaped bed requiring a good clearing up of the fallen leaves from my fruit trees.

Last of the Tomatoes Ripening Mid October 2015
A high percentage of the "flower borders" in and around the rear garden of my bungalow, were well overgrown with ivy, both variegated and the old english type as well as periwinkle and various other plants and shrubs, which had been neglected for quite some time. Thousands of Spring flowering bulbs were once planted under and around the border plants, shrubs and ivies. I have almost completed removing the ivy and periwinkle from the borders and fencing. Digging out the massive ivy roots without the use of a J.C.B. was rather physically challenging. Most of the various plants have been lifted, split and re-planted or discarded, depending upon their condition. All of the spring bulbs have been lifted, split and re-positioned/re-planted. The old garden shed which was in a state of disrepair, except for its roof, has been repaired, after removing the roof, dismantling and repairing the sides and replacing the roof, it is once again a viable work and storage area.

Unidentified Grub Oct 2015
Unidentified Grub October 2015
Unidentified Grub November 2015
Unidentified Grub November 2015
As this is supposed to be an allotment/gardening blog I won't mention the various other D.I.Y. jobs which have been required since the beginning of October even if I could remember them all!!

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Rooko's Novembers Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

Well after I missed last months top 10 (only the 2nd time since I started blogging), its about time I got back into some posting and allotment work.

1. Well I'm about to stick my neck right out with the first tip. 2 weeks is your deadline for getting out those protective fleeces, covers and any other plant protection items you can find. I'm predicting a cold snap across U.K. starting in approximately 2 weeks time, that will last into February 2016 with temperatures well below freezing day and night. Be prepared.

2. Deciduous and fruit trees can be planted this month but do not plant them on waterlogged areas of ground.

3. Many gardeners and allotment owners will be celebrating bonfire night soon. If you have built a bonfire, remember to check under/inside it for any hibernating animals such as hedgehogs, before lighting the fire.

4. Vacant patches of ground on your plot can be dug/rotavated if not too wet. Add compost/manure. Winter frosts should break down any heavy clumps of soil.

5. Cover rhubarb crowns with a mixture of soil/manure or soil/compost to feed and protect them over the Winter period.

6. November is usually a good time to repair and maintain garden tools and machinery, ready for next seasons gardening adventures.

7. Cuttings of evergreen shrubs can be taken this month.

8. Grapevines can be pruned this month, cutting back all fruited buds to 1 or 2 shoots from the main stem.

9. Protect the crowns of globe artichokes from frosts by adding straw around the base of the plants.

1. Garlic cloves can be planted out.
2. Sow peas (round type) if the ground is not waterlogged.
3. Parsnips can be left in situ.
1. Lift and store any remaining carrots.
2. Harvest Winter Cabbage and Cauliflower.
3. Prune back fruit canes.
 4. Remove any rotting fruit/vegetation

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Rooko's September Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. After several wet days in the past fortnight and temperatures dropping quite noticeably, especially overnight, check the ventilation of greenhouses and poly tunnels if you still have fruit and veg ripening within them. My tomatoes have been very slow to ripen this year. It may be prudent to strip all the leaves and stems from the plants to aid ripening.

2. Lifting potatoes is best done when the soil is reasonably dry. About this time of year slugs/worms are more likely to attack tubers and blight can set in after being spread around after rain showers.

3. If your beds are clear of veggies, now is the time to dig or rotavate them, ready for next season, adding manure or compost as required. This will save time next Spring.

4. If you prefer to dig/rotavate in the Spring, try sowing a green manure such as mustard. Mustard (a biofumigant) not only keeps many weeds at bay but is also useful in deterring soil borne pests.

5. Now is a good time to plant out Autumn onion sets & garlic.

6. If you don't have the positions of your perennial plants in the garden indicated with markers, why not draw up a map, before they die back, so you can remember where they are.

7. After harvesting the last of your Autumn raspberries cut back their canes.

8. Don't leave those runner and french beans too long before picking them otherwise they will become tough and stringy. Better to freeze them than waste them. Top and tail, slice, blanche for 2 minutes, open freeze then keep in the freezer in an airtight storage container.

9. Slugs and snails are still out and about especially under and around decayed vegetable matter. Keep beds and borders free of their hiding places. A sharpened stick or pair of garden shears will put an end to most molluscs.

1. Winter hardy lettuce can be sown in September as well as hardy Spring Onions.
2. Spring Cabbages can be planted out now.
3. Parsnips will taste better if left in the ground until after a frost.
1. Prune Summer fruiting Raspberries.
2.  Runners from Strawberries can be planted now.
3. Add manure, lime or green manures to your soil, depending on each beds condition and your crop rotation.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Rooko's August Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. August is probably a good month to spray weedkiller, (if you use it), onto those nasty perennial weeds, whilst they have a good covering of foliage to absorb it.

2. Pick veggies, such as runner beans, french beans, peas regularly, which will encourage the plants to produce more fruits.  Biggest is not always best, small and sweet is often the best.

3. If you have an abundance of veggies, why not invite some friends over for a B.B.Q. and utilize the extra fruit and veggies in a salad/meal.

4. August can be a fairly dry month, regular, consistent watering, particularly of seedlings, potted plants and hanging baskets may be required. Don't get dehydrated, have a drink yourself too.

5. Taking cutting from half hardy bedding plants is a good idea this month.

6. If the weather has been particularly dry add mulches around beds and borders to aid water retention.

7. Watch out for signs of late blight on tomatoes/potato plants. Remove any infected plants and burn or bag and bin them, don't add them to a compost heap.

8. Weeding is usually a year round chore, but many weeds have seed heads throughout August, make sure these seed heads are not added to your compost heap, unless you can ensure temperatures within the heap are high enough to kill the seeds off. Remember the old saying, 1 years seeds = 7 years weeds.

9. On the subject of weeds, many of them or different parts of them are edible. Check out which ones can be useful before discarding them.

1. Sow the following this month: Spring Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Kohl-rabi, Lettuce (Winter hardy), Spring Onions, Radish, Spinach and Turnips.
2. Plant out Savoys, Cauliflowers and Kale.
1.  Keep weeding & hoeing.
2. If you are storing potatoes for later use, ensure any damaged ones are used, not stored.
3. Pinch out side shoots on tomatoes, leaving 4 or 5 trusses on each plant in general.
4. Turn your compost heap and spray with water if it is very dry.
5. Compost & manure heaps are attractive places for wasps to build their nests, so be wary when disturbing the heaps.