Monday, March 27, 2017

A bit of gardening time

The last few weeks have been very busy and to get a couple of hours of allotment time has taken a lot of effort and determination. Despite several attempts by outside forces to steal my plot time I made it down to the lottie on Friday for a few hours.

The first thing I encountered was Malcolm, a seasoned and successful plot holder, much envied by others, sitting outside his shed, brew in hand, surveying his extremely tidy, organised and well kept plot, oh to be retired. On the plus side he came over and gave me a good review of my broads, sprouting broccoli and onions so not all bad.

I had gone down with a 2 specific tasks in mind, weed and mulch the asparagus, weed and mulch the permanent bed.

If it was green, not asparagus and in that bed out it came. Once the bed was clear it was covered in a good layer of manure for the worms to work in. In the process I discovered our first spear of asparagus for this season, about 3/4 of an inch so far but hopefully a sign of things to come. The bed had a good seaweed feed at the end of last season, a top dressing in Jan plus this manure so fingers crossed.


The permanent bed is the raspberries which I think I may have accidently over pruned last year following a mis-communication with my dad, rhubarb which is going rather mental and a few stray plants (lavender, curry and dill) that we couldn't bear to throw out and made a home for, if  for nothing else than to attract bees . This area has been rather neglected so got weeded and manured to top dress and mulch it. The spare spots in this area will get filled with something this year I'm sure.

Apart from that I hoe'd and weeded to old parsnip and leek area. I earthed up the remaining leeks, not sure what that will do and cleared the spot for this years peas where our overwintering attempt failed.

All the weeds are taken home for bin disposal. We never put weeds, even annuals into compost to try and keep it weed free for next year. Two big buckets headed home.


Under the cloche the lettuces are slowly growing and I've thinned the radishes and turnips which are doing well. The ends are off the cloche now to prevent dampening off and temps getting too high in the day. I plan to start another couple of rows of radishes, turnips, spring onions and beetroot under another cloche next week.

At home I planted our tomatoes, 20 pots, 4 varieties, 2 seeds per pot. If they all come up I'll prick some out. I am growing extras for my dad and sister, Heather's balcony and a couple in my back garden, just in case blight strikes.  

I also potted on my winter PSB for next year and pricked out marigolds into cells. 48 plants for next year should do it. All plants are now getting some outside time in the mini greenhouse to start hardening them off.

My lettuces in pots on the kitchen window sill were a disappointment. The Sierra only managed 4 seeds germinated, the Little Gem and big fat zero. The Little Gem seeds were old so maybe I planted them in both pots accident?? They have been replaced and planted again, and another sowing of Sierra seeds started. The compost is also a slightly different Jon Innes variety so hopefully the usual faithful window sill will succeed this time.

I got some sugarsnap pea seeds from a garden magazine, the average pack contents was 13 seeds (we got 16, yeahhhhhhh baby), so I decided to start them off in cells as we have no spares for gaps otherwise.

I've seen seed catalogues advertise baby beetroot plants. Beetroot I thought were tap rooted and should not be transplanted so I've always been suspicious how well these would transplant. I had 8 cells left in the pea tray so I've put 4 x Golden Burpee and 4 x Bolthardy in to see what happens when I transplant them if they come up.  Hopefully they provide a small early crop.

A few pots with Minicole cabbages, Green Sleeves celery and Golden Berry cape Gooseberries completed a fun filled Saturday evening.

So a productive weekend given the time available.

Finally... as you may have noticed my plant labels are printed... I'm a geek, I have access to  a labelling machine so why not. Also my hand writing is appalling so it makes life easier. 

I recently had a gardening supplies catalogue come through the door advertising a garden labeller, for the princely sum of £43.95 (a Brother PT_GL_H105). The one I use is a slightly different model, but essentially the same machine (a Brother H101), by the same manufacturer, using the same tape, for £13.24 on eBay...And labels last for more than a season.  I don't like this over charging, its folks like my dad who will stump up the £43.95 without thinking to check the internet for a cheaper options. What they are charging it clearly taking advantage of those who don't know/trust/have access to the internet to find cheaper options. it pays to shop around for such equipment.


Next week I must get the spuds, peas, parsnips and carrots in...........

Happy Gardening Folks!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Leek, Potato and Red Leicester Pasties

I bought my god-daughter a recipe book for her 4th birthday recently, but had flick through before I wrapped it. Page 90 caught my eye, cheese and potato pasties....yum yum.

I had to try them and added leeks as well just to see what they would come out like. Check out the recipes page to try them.

On the plot this week I've dug up the last of parsnips, pulled up all but one of the brussels stalks and the final PSB plant is showing signs of earning it's keep. Under the cloche things are looking good... oh and the water butt has sprung a leak. 

In sad news one of next years summer PSB seedlings has turned up its leaves and exited stage left... No idea what happened there but I guess that's why we plant spares.

Happy cooking and gardening folks..  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mid March Update.....

Looking at our seed tin I can that see this weekend is the lull before the storm, on the tomato front at least, and that very soon the potting tray is going to start looking rather full. I've been itching to plant the toms but I've been holding off so they don't get leggy before they go outside.  So before  things kick off here's a run down of the latest status.

The Cloche Experiment - Following the timings on the seed packets I put some radish, turnip and lettuce seeds under a cloche at the end of Feb, just to see if they would grow so early in the year.

Well the radishes and turnips are up and the germination rate has been good, they are growing slowly but seem quite happy under there. I may remove the cloche to stop the dampness getting to them if it gets warmer.

The lettuces haven't germinated quite so well. Once up they are fine, but germination is not great. I suspect that the temperature is too high, lettuces need a lower temperature to start growing and it gets pretty warm under there. I have put some more seeds in and will start some on the windowsill at home as well to plant out.

Alliums - The garlic, shallots and onions are looking good. They've been top dressed and now need a good weeding. The ground is a bit soft for hand weeding but it's on the to do list. They are just doing their thing.

Aubergines - In a word STRANGE!!. I planted 10 seeds in 5 pots and only 2 came up, in separate pots, 4 weeks later another 2 have just started to join the party. I tried to chit another dozen on blue roll but none came up. This could be that stored aubergine seed is not very viable, it was last years, but no amount of encouragement seems to get it going then it suddenly just decides to pop up. The two we have are doing nicely in the mini greenhouse just inside the back door and are getting their second set of true leaves now.



Sprouts - Last years Brussels are nearly done, quite a lot blew and they are still a bit small but there are a couple more pickings yet. This years have come up, got their first true leaves and I've potted them up into their own pots. We'll need 3 plants.

Summer PSB - Has come up, got its first set of true leaves and been potted on. It's living in the mini greenhouse until it goes out. We'll need 2 plants.

Winter PSB - Of the 3 plants I put out last year, 1 was ready in November, 1 is ready now and one 1 only a big leafy bush...hmmm. I suspect lack of ground prep last year is the issue. I'll need that ground soon so it had better step up. This years are up and I'll pot them on when they get the true leaves. We'll need 3 again.

Broad Beans - These have been over wintered this year, we lost quite a few when it snowed a few weeks back but the rest have bounced back after a good top dressing. There are some spaces now so this weekend I put a few seeds in the ground direct. I've not done much with broads before as I grow them for other people, this mixed time crop may or not be a good idea but we'll see. I remain unconvinced by over wintering them.

Chillies - Heather has started potting these on now as they are doing nicely with true leaves on them. They have produced a few of each variety as planned   

Leeks - There are a few left from last year still . This years are doing nicely in their tray, it looks like turf! I've got another deeper tray to pot them on into to get a bit bigger before going outside. I'm not sure if a double replanting is a good idea but we'll see. Last year they never got very big before going out and suffered in the rains, so hopefully this year will be better.

Marigolds - The first sowing got planted out into individual cells and I put in another sowing as I have about a 50% germination rate. Once potted on this should be enough.

Parsnips - A few left from last year, but they have new top growth so will be getting woody. 

Potatoes - These have been chitting under the bed. They seem to be doing fine, few needed turning, I hadn't checked them for a while.

Strawberries - The runners from last year are ready to go outside. This year we'll plant them through weed control fabric to make management and weed control easier. Hopefully we can control the slugs as well. Some of the alpines planted from seed have come up, but nothing to write home about yet.

General -  We left the plot tidy and covered last season so there isn't much to do yet. We have a bit of weeding and mulching planned for next weekend on the asparagus and  raspberry beds but can't do too much until the paths and ground dry out a bit.

Lets get this season going!!!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A bit of reading material

Not a lot has happened on the farm this week as the weather has been decidedly cold, wet and windy. I popped down today in the brief hour of sunshine and did a bit of picking, dug out some sprawling raspberry canes and dropped off a couple of pallets I'd got from a community website to use for my irrigation system. A haul of rather small but usable veg.....

At home I've been doing some potting up etc. I have one more job to do then I'll blog the progress, but for this entry as the heading says, its about reading material.

The last week or so I've been reading Digger's Diary - Tales from the Allotment by Victor Osbourne. Victor has been writing for the Telegraph's weekend section since 1996 and this book chronicles a year on his allotment. It's not a gardening book, or a cookery book but I found I picked up some tips and a couple of recipes to try. It's a humorous look at allotment life, the regular characters and trials and tribulations that we all encounter. Well written and well worth a read.

My copy was found by Heather at the local scout book sale, but it's available on amazon HERE

I like reading other peoples blogs and seeing how they are getting on, getting ideas and following their progress, during a bit of surfing time this week I found some new blogs to read. I added them to the Blogs section on here, I hope you enjoy them to.

I even discovered that one of the large council allotment sites in Chelmsford has an allotment association that has been running for over 50 years with a trading hut and regular social do's etc, something I feel our site is a bit lacking. The councils BBQ ban doesn't help I guess. I hope to visit the trading hut soon.

And finally.... the seed companies have done it again. I was looking through the seeds and found my carrots are rather a late variety. I was thinking I should get some other variety and as if by magic this's fate I tell you!!

Happy gardening Folks