Sunday, April 23, 2017

What a difference a day makes..

Says the song or in this case a along weekend.

We were away Friday to Sunday so had leave the seedlings, plot and pots to fend for themselves, after good watering of course. A nervous time for any gardener.

As soon as the front door was open the inspection began, and it looks like without our constant attention (or fiddling depending on your point of view), things have actually done rather well.

The sweetcorn and beans on the windowsill have really started now. I planted 24 sweetcorn pots (2 seeds per pot) and 19 now have at least 1 seedling. I'll thin down those with 2 later this week and put in more seeds to any that haven't appeared. (Some not shown)

There were 5 out of 24 beans showing when we left, now it looks like a mini forest. (Some not shown).

The Easy Pick Gold courgettes  have all germinated, some of the pumpkins and a squash or 2.
Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers have a 100% germination rate  while the Marketmore have only had 1 out 8 so far. Hopefully this is not another failure of the free magazine seeds, I'll give them a few more days.


On the plot our neighbour had his potatoes badly hit by a frost but the earthing up I did on Thursday saved ours. I have earthed up again today as the next couple of nights are looking likely to bring a snap air frost. After that we are in the clear for a week or so at least.

We are now officially eating home grown lettuce. Red and green salad bowl planted in Feb under the cloche. I think its fair to say the cloche experiment has been successful in bringing an early start to the eating season.

The Little Gems are doing ok under their cloche while the Sierra are proving very slow. It could just be that it is still cold, or that I have been starting them in pots and transplanting them. I have been reading that they don't like this so may switch to growing in individual cells and potting on the whole cell to reduce root disturbance.     


I love home grown salad so happy to be eating it now.

I spotted the first broad beans on the overwintered plants today, small but they are starting to form. Time for some extra watering.

Before we left I had dismantled the netting and cage over the brassicas and removed everything except 1 sprouting broccoli plant. I started to dig over the ground ready for this year, which hadn't been dug for 2 years and it was like concrete. I took a while but once the biggest lumps were broken down I put in the last of the manure I had and threw a good many buckets of water at it. This section will get the contents of the compost bins and a good few handfuls of chicken manure pellets before it's used again.

The next jobs are planting out the strawberries and trying to assemble the fruit cage frame I plan on using for brassicas next year, oh and prepping the bed for them...

Happy gardening folks..

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pot(ter)ing On

The other evening I spent a couple of hours pottering and potting on all our tomatoes. They had got to about 2 1/2 inches tall and most of the 5cm pots had 2 plants in them so it was time to give them some leg room. 

I figured the roots were probably too large now for digging around with a pencil or similar so I opted to empty pots out carefully and pick them up by the leaves to transplant them. The pots are carefully tipped out and most of the soil is gently knocked off the roots.

The plant is then dropped into a hole the depth of the stem up to the first leaves in a pot of watered compost and the hole filled in.

A final water and we are ready to go.

The end result of the evenings work was this.

The plants for the plot and my back garden are in the cut down 2 litre coke bottles. The extra depth available with these meant I could leave space above the soil line to add more compost later as the plants grow and put out more roots from the stem. Hopefully this gives them a better root structure before I plant them out.

All the others I've grown to give away so I've put them in any spare larger pots I could find.  Some are heading to the sun trap that is Heather balcony where the season is generally longer. There are still a few spares in case any decide that the new pot isn't for them.

The rest of the evening was spent clearing up the kitchen!

Fingers crossed they all survive, and that blight doesn't strike like last year.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mid April Update

So now things are really starting to kick off. While activity on the plot remains at a fairly sedate pace thanks to the careful close down at the end of last year, at home the sowing frenzy is upon us.

The problem, is where to put it all. We don't have a greenhouse/poly tunnel so window sills and mini greenhouses it is. I'm going to build a cold frame for Heathers balcony from any spare decking I collected for the borders, I just need time to do it.

At Home
Getting through the back door to the garden is a bit of an obstacle course at the moment and in the spirit of recycling/repurposing I have commandeered the shoe rack as a tray holder. A genius idea I thought, it can hold up to 9 trays, points the plants at the light and has carrying handles, will be checking the dump and charity shops for more!! Closing the Kitchen blind has also become a bit of an issue.


In the greenhouse Toms, which are due to be pricked out this week, Aubergines and Cape Gooseberry on the top shelf, Cucumbers, Broccoli, cabbages and sprouts beneath.
On the shoe rack  Marigolds, Beetroot, celery and various just sown squashes. Also the leeks transplanted to the long tub, progressing very slowly.
On the window sill (no pic) sweetcorn in pots, runner and climbing beans in tubes. The dwarf beans will go directly into the soil to save space. The first of the sweetcorn are up after only 6 days which is pretty impressive.

On the plot:
The asparagus is starting to crop , love the stuff, very tasty. Max 4 mins in salted, simmering water.

The radishes are half eaten (by me I should add) and we should shortly be less dependant on the Spanish for lettuce. Beetroot, spring onions and turnips are all starting to poke through. I planted out more home started lettuce today and yet another row of radishes. I'm determined to crack the continuous supply. They are sheltering in the cloche village I seem to have constructed, there is still  risk of an air frost or two where we are.

The carrots and parsnips are in. Parsnips under the cloche, I'm not taking any risk of them getting washed away this year as I plant them into compost and the carrots are protected by sticks, (thank you Sue), so hopefully whatever it is will stop having a bath in them .

The first of the early spuds is just begging to be earthed up to. It might be frosty here Tuesday so I'll get to that shortly. There is also a more advanced one poking out of the compost bin, might be more fun to earth up that one!


Elsewhere, the first row of Kelvedon Wonder Peas went in and I've started half a row each of spinach (Amazon) and Chard (Bright Lights)

The broads have also been mulched with grass cuttings and while there are lots of flowers there are no beans yet.

I'm happy with the progress so far but the to do list now still has plenty on it.

Hope you had a productive Easter, happy gardening folks!!

Monday, April 10, 2017


The free kind not the tree kind...

A piece of advice for any new plot holder is to become a keen recycler... AKA a skip diver. If offered anything mildly useful looking, grab it, and take it to the plot. Most allotment sites look like the scrapheap challenge on a good day, pallets being a favourite.

This week has been a good week on the recycling front, 3 major finds for use on the farm.

First a load of decking someone wanted to get rid of. Heather spotted it on the local free cycle type community Facebook page. The guy was looking for someone to quote him to take it away, a quick visit later it was mine and he gets it taken away for free, a win for both of us! I've been looking for wood to make edging for a while so a good score, and it includes all the heavy stuff from the frame. A bit of cleaning up of the ends with the chop saw and it'll be perfect.

Next was a pair of bike wheels, free from the shop where I bought my road bike, as easy as popping in and asking if they had any going for scrap. These will be mounted on pole to make inverted bean wigwams. I've been wanting to try this since I read about it in Diggers Diary.

And finally, a folding shower screen a neighbour was about to dump. It has 4 hinged glassed sections and makes a perfect double row cloche. Well pleased with this one. the white sticks are there to prevent any chance of it deciding to fold flat and squash whatever is underneath, it's pretty heavy. At least it won't blow away.


A great recycling weekend, happy diving peeps!!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Hi I'm Bob

This is Bob, Bob was following me round the farm today for a couple of hours as I weeded out the onion bed, a long over due task.. As I dug out the weeds he bobbed along, hence the name, cleaning up the bugs and taking a few bits of grass and twig for a nest. He got within about 4 feet for a while and even shouted at me to go faster. It made the weeding a far more pleasant task. His mate Robin even showed up for a bit, I assume they headed off for a pint after.

Four hours on the farm today, it was never supposed to be that long but it was a great evening and I was enjoying myself.

The onion bed is finally clear of overwintering weeds. It looked far worse than it was, mostly large leafed weeds that had not got a deep root system in place in the capped over clay soil. While it looks good I can't help wondering if disturbing the soils solid surface is inviting more weeds to take root. I'd better get the mulching done sharpish.

To help with the mulch production I got myself a new toy, a good old fashioned push mower. I'd been watching them used on eBay but in the end went for a new one as the price was so similar. It's light and easy to use and while the edges still need to be sorted by other means as it doesn't do well on one wheel, but it certainly improves the look of the place.

Bob's smart, be like Bob....

Thursday, April 06, 2017

First Past the Post

We have the first 2017 sown crop ready to eat, and it is of course................. Radishes, French Breakfast 3 to be exact.

Planted under a cloche in Feb they are now ready. They are delicious, not woody at all, nice and clean and due to it being too early for slugs we'll be the first things to eat them!!

I planted the next crop a week ago and will put in another half row when they germinate.

The lettuce under the cloche is really starting to get going do hopefully we'll be eating that soon.

Happy Gardening Folks

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Farm Overview....

For those interested I thought I'd include a little overview of our plot.

It's a half plot, set out in 5 beds with grass paths. Originally it was beds 1-4 and 5 was supposed to be a path to other plots, but the end got closed off so we basically claimed it. Beds 1-4 came that way and we saw no reason to change it, it makes crop rotation very easy.

The layout is:

Beds 1-4 are used for the main rotation with number 5, the more narrow one being used for anything and everything that doesn't need such strict rotation as well as strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb.

Along the bottom is the pathway and the car park is opposite. As you can see, very handy for the tap.

The shed is a ramshackle corrugated iron affair which for some reason is sunk a foot into the ground, if we ever replace it I have no idea how easy it will be to remove. That said its been there at least 12 years so it is at least solid.

Our site is run by council and we aren't allowed any fires or BBQ's which is a shame. There is a large concrete structure in the middle of the site but we have no access no idea even what is in there.

The light green strip is where I plan to make a new path this year, making the fruit bed a small permanent one and bed 5 the same length as 2-4. I'd like to move the path between 4 & 5 over a foot or so as well, making them a little more even in the width department and increasing the rotation.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Covers are Coming Off!!

Once again allotment time has been difficult this week, life seems rather busy at the moment, but hopefully things will calm down soon. I did manage 3 hours on Friday after work and the plot is starting to look like things are finally on the move.

Last year we left everything covered up, having spread it with manure and run the tiller over it. Friday one of those covers finally came off. It was spud planting time!

The soil was lovely and so easy to work with, a good temperature, nice and damp and not a weed in sight. Just dig a trench, sprinkle some potato fertiliser and pop the spuds in. The digging was easy and the soil just crumbled when raked. This year should start a little more calmly.

We've planted 4 rows of Rocket earlies and 3 rows of King Edward mains. The mains may be a little close together but as the spud bed also has the asparagus this year there wasn't a lot I could do. The spuds must have liked being under the bed, good short stocky chits with side shoots, not the usual white leggy ones. Lets see what happens. Everyone posts a pic of the spud bed so here's ours.

The rest of the time was spent spreading 3 builders buckets of manure onto the areas vacated by the leeks and parsnips ready for sweetcorn and squashes, planting more radishes, spring onions and beetroot under more cloches.

The overwintering onion and garlic bed is looking a bit overrun with weeds so I made a start on weeding it. One of my good intentions for this year was to use mulch and as I'd given the grass at home its first cut of the year I made use of the clippings. There is also a hand mower on order to provide more farm grown cuttings.

At home everything I planted last week is up except the peas. I swear twice as many cabbages as I sowed have come up and the lettuces seem to prefer the new compost.

I moved on some leeks from the seed tray to a tub, hopefully these will grow on nicely, I 've kept the spares in case any don't make it. I'll probably end up giving some away. Next year a smaller seed tray me thinks.