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!!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Back To The Future

A while ago, early last year in fact, I decided I was going to tend my allotments during the Spring, Summer and Autumn, weather permitting, using the Winter months to concentrate on tending my garden at home and to do any D.I.Y. or decorating jobs on my house. So far so good this Winter. My back garden is looking in good condition at the moment with the borders tidied, shrubs and trees pruned back and the trellis which ran the length of my patio, along the flower border parallel to the house, removed, as has the massive clematis which was growing along its length. The trellis woodwork had been decaying for some time and adding more supports to it was no longer an option, so it had to go. The bonuses are, more daylight is now getting through my lounge windows and the garden appears larger than before due to the fact that it is no longer screened off from the patio area by the clematis.

Back Garden Trellis Out Archway In (Jan 2015)
As far as D.I.Y. and decorating inside my house is concerned, well plenty of that has been done since last November. In fact anyone who has moved house before, will know just how much work, effort and stress is involved. As I don't do things by halves, after getting the decorating done and a few of those "I'll do it tomorrow" jobs completed, I put my house on the market yesterday. I'm not convinced its the correct time of year to sell a house but I would like to get things over and done with soonest, before the recent regular frosts give way to sowing and planting time, down my plots.
Rhubarb N2 Plot (Jan 2015)

First Daffodils (Jan 2015)

I made the first visit to my plots, in just over a month, this afternoon. As I normally do some work on the plots over the Winter I was wondering what condition they would be in, on my arrival just after midday. To my surprise they were in much the same condition as they were before Christmas. A few plants, mainly my cabbages, had suffered the effects of the many recent overnight frosts. I was surprised to see lettuce still in usable condition, growing on N2 Plot, along with leeks and carrots still standing in good condition on N1 Plot. Many Spring flowering bulbs were well developed but not flowering as yet, although a couple of daffodil plants were showing good blooms. These were planted into the drainage ditch bed some time ago, which is situated well below the frost line on the plots. I was also pleasantly surprised to see very few weeds on my plots, only 3 patches of annual weeds were to be seen. 2 patches on No 2 bed which was composted in the Autumn and 1 patch of weeds on No5 bed, which was to be expected as this area has had the least amount of hand weeding done on it over the past 2 years. With some high winds and heavy rain early in January for a week or so there was surprisingly little damage around the allotments. On the down side, my poly tunnel hadn't fared too well from the high winds earlier this month and one of my water tanks had sprung a leak since my last visit. The poly tunnel was badly ripped apart across its western end, with several of the metal supports broken throughout its length. I spent most of the afternoon dismantling it and salvaging as many usable parts of it as possible. By 1630 I had finished the task and as the afternoon sun was fading and temperatures dropping quickly it was time to spuddle off home, leaving the lettuce seedlings in the ground, where they had germinated inside the tunnel, wondering if another frost tonight would finish them off.
Broad beans N2 Plot (Jan 2015)
Poly Tunnel Damage (Jan 2015)
"Catkins" Western Hedgerow (Jan 2015)
 There's always tomorrow!!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Rooko's February Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. Summer bearing blackberries and raspberries, should have all their canes, which produced fruit last year, removed.

2. If you have not done so already, start chitting your seed potatoes, in a cool, dry frost free space.

3. The following veggies can be sown under glass. In colder areas probably later in the month, Broad beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celeriac, leeks, lettuce, marrows, onions, peas, peppers, radish, tomatoes, turnips and pumpkins.

4. Rhubarb crowns can be lifted and divided in February as well as "forcing" plants which are not being divided, to produce earlier sweet young stems.

5. Your brassicas growing area may well benefit later from doing a pH check now. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5. with 6.5 to 7.0 being the ideal range. If lime needs to be added (to reduce the soils acidity and raise its pH) add it now, to allow it to be worked into the soil before sowing/planting takes place later.

6. Try some new veggies for 2015 - Mistletoe & Snowdrop (kalettes), Royal Snow (pea), Jersey Boy (tomato), Speckled pup (Winter squash), Feo de Rio Gordo (tomato).

7. Weed out any remaining annual weeds from your planting areas and help to warm the ground by placing cloches or ground cover over the areas prior to commencing sowing/planting. Preparing planting areas of ground can take place this month by rotavating or digging, if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.

8. Check any shrubs or trees that have been planted over the Winter, ensuring they haven't been lifted by frost or loosened by the wind. Heel any loose specimens back into place and add stakes if necessary.

9. Many gardeners will be browsing through seed catalogues at present and ordering seeds/plants. Don't forget to order plant food, compost, fertilizers and other gardening commodities that will keep plants in top condition, ensuring that the hard preparation and planting/sowing work is not wasted.

1. Sow winter greens (under cloches or tunnels).
2. Sow round seeded peas (probably best in pots or trays).
3.  Sow tomatoes seeds early Feb (heated greenhouse) late Feb (unheated greenhouse).
4. Depending on conditions, sow broad beans, early peas for harvesting in May/June.
5. Parsnips can be sown in Feb but sowing in March may give better germination.
6. Try planting shallots under cloches.
7. Lettuce, radish and rocket can be started early under cloches or in the greenhouse.
8. Spinach, turnips and Summer cabbages can be sown under cover.
9. Sow onion seeds indoors (15degC).
10. Cane fruits can still be planted in Feb.
1. Cover over unused areas of the plot with cloches or black plastic sheeting to warm the soil earlier.
2. Clean out pots and trays.
3. Repair or replace any broken/damaged tools.
4. Feed the birds.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Plotting At Christmastime

Since the beginning of December things have been slow and restful down my plots, compared with previous years. Over the past couple of weeks, air temperatures have risen and I have spent several pleasant days in the sunshine, mainly replacing the storm damaged vents in the walls of my poly tunnel. This involved fixing wooden battens along the sides of the tunnel, inside and out and replacing the original torn vents with stronger pieces of nylon mesh. To date one side of the tunnel has been completed and the other side partially completed. A bit of a fiddly job to say the least, trying to fix battens to both sides of the tunnel walls at the same time and definitely a 2 man job.

Squash Seeds
It Always Looks Good On Paper (Next Seasons Squash Seeds) Dec 2014
Most of the allotments are looking tidy if not devoid of crops at this time of the year and compared with previous years, few plot holders seem to have been tending their plots lately, compared to last year over the same time period. With the final pruning done to my blackcurrant bushes two days ago, just some pruning to the red and white currants and fruit trees remains to be done later this Winter, leaving the plum tree pruning until June. My rhubarb plants are already showing early signs of new growth. If this mild weather continues it could well be an early start to next season. I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought this Winter would bring extremely bad weather with it. Wrong so far!! But I wonder now if Winter will be late with snow, frost etc around Easter time. I had a good harvest of cabbage (round headed and cavolo nero) parsnips, carrots, mixed lettuce and lambs lettuce today most of which will be eaten and hopefully enjoyed on Christmas day.

Damaged Poly Tunnel Vents
Poly Tunnel Vents Needing Repair (Dec 2014)
Repaired Poly Tunnel Vents
New Vents & Battens Being Fixed To My Poly Tunnel (Dec 2014)

Some Veggies for Christmas Day
A Few Veggies For Christmas Day
(A gardeners poem with apologies to any poets reading it)

It was Christmas day in the kitchen and the turkey was cooking well
The giblets still inside their polythene bag were exuding an odorous smell
Brussels sprouts were purchased from Asda this year
I forgot to sow some last Spring
My planning was wrong, my memory was short and definitely needed some zing
The carrots were simmering nicely smelling sweeter with each passing minute
The pan they were in was full to the brim, after I spilled some bleach right in it
Parsnips and peas looked delicious, as they cooked alongside the spuds
But the yorkshires were somewhat deflated not rising just how they should
The runner beans were a wonderful green and looking ever so tasty
But the gravy was thick and lumpy, because I had been too hasty
 The custard and pud were coming along very well, as I added a little more rum
Spirit and flame from the gas hob combined, to give off a bl**dy great flash
Christmas dinner was lost in the blink of an eye, just as the first guests appeared
Sod it I thought I'm off down my plots, to sow some more seeds for next years'


Monday, 1 December 2014

Autumn Colours

After another chilly and drab Autumn week, but with a beautiful sunny day yesterday, which cleared away the dampness in the air and on the ground I decide to spuddle off to my plots today in the late morning. With not a great deal to do around my allotments, the intention was to make a short visit and do a cursory inspection of everything. Most of the ground areas were reasonably dry, except where the fallen Autumn leaves were strewn around, holding in moisture, mainly across the southern lower parts of my plots, close to the hedgerow. The grass areas of the plots were also a little damp, as only recently has the grass stopped growing to any degree. As I wandered around my plots checking the beds, borders, paths, cloches and ground covers, I noticed a surprising and varied amount of new growth, despite the recent cold, damp weather. Many spring flowering bulbs were showing well above soil level. The autumn sown veggies which would be expected to develop were doing well and even my mixed lettuce, (uncovered as yet), was growing away, unaffected by the recent frosts. 

Passiflora Still Flowering End of Nov 2014
 Seven or eight other plot holders were working away on their plots when I arrived and were in the process of some rough digging or clearing decaying vegetation from their planting areas. By about midday most of them had left for home. I dug over a few feet of soil at the top end of No1 bed. After about forty minutes of digging, I decided to remove my runner bean plants, which were still in situ on the L-Shaped bed and still growing, although they were looking bedraggled, having been ravaged by a recent heavy overnight frost. This task took me longer than I anticipated. After cutting away the plants ties, removing the supporting canes and cleaning them of soil and sooty mould, salvaging some beans for seed, disposing of the foliage onto the compost heap and putting away the hundred or so canes, into my shed, 2 hours had gone by. I then cleared the ground, on the drainage ditch bank beneath my fruit trees, of more fallen leaves, depositing them into my "leaf mould bin". By the time this task was finished I called it a day, locked up the sheds and spuddled off home.
Camelia In Full Bud End of Nov 2014
Groundsel Flowering End Nov 2014
Inkcaps Like It Damp Dec 2014
More Inkcaps
More Inkcaps Dec 2014
More Inkcaps
And More Dec 2014
(This One Usually Dies Back in Late Autumn) Dec 2014
Feverfew Flowering Dec 2014

There's Always Tomorrow!!!