Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A Day of Firsts

This first of July has many firsts associated with it ...
  1. First potato pulled this year - a Rosabelle
  2. First harvest of broad beans
  3. First courgettes of the year (from our plots. I have already had one from Neal's plot - well, he was on holiday!) 
  4. First purple mangetout to make it home this year!
  5. First day of the year when it's been worth using the trug to gather the harvest and therefore...
  6. First trug shot of the year!
  7. First day with the new bench
First day with the new bench
And I had the day off because yesterday was so lovely I didn't want to miss another lovely day on the allotment - of course I had to hide quite a lot as it was too hot! Well, hottest day in Britain EVER (according to the Met Office).
That maximum of 40 degrees was reached yesterday, but I think the thermometer was in the sun so that doesn't count. Look at the temperature in the greenhouse though!!
Jamie watered the floor and that knocked it down a few degrees, but not enough to be able to stay in there for long!So all this hot weather has meant... a lot of watering!
Everything looks happier when it's been watered.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Practise, Practise

I'm helping on the HAHA (Hungerford Allotment Holders Association) stall at the primary school fete next Saturday. We're having some 'photo quizzes', 'make a paper pot & sow a bean' and 'make a bug hotel'. The latter seemed like a good idea until I made one - they take a surprising amount of filling to avoid the contents simply dropping out! I can picture the children walking away from our stall dropping bamboo, sticks and bark all the way round the fete and ending up with just an empty drinks bottle on a string!
So, now I'm searching for bits of dried debris. It shouldn't be hard, except for the rain this morning and the fact that whenever we have a bonfire I clear the area of anything vaguely 'bug hotel' suitable! I think I'll be walking the grounds at work to find bits over the next week! And Jamie's put out because I'm going to use all our bottle cloches!
Well, we'll see how it goes - I'm sure it'll be fine (crosses fingers!)...
I erred yesterday, our Sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse have got flowers!
And the strawberries are doing an amazing job. Though some are succumbing to mould, ants, slugs and birds there's still plenty left.
I'm giving lettuce away to plotholders now as any time soon they'll probably go to seed. I really need to sow some more - still haven't got this 'successional sowing' quite right!
A lovely beetroot in there for lunch too

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Flowers Before Food

It's been a warm week with a few millimetres of rain mid-week so everything is growing happily and, with any luck, lots of flowers will soon mean lots to harvest. I've been lunching on fresh salad and beetroot this week, with plenty of strawberries for desserts.
These are our tumbling Lizzano tomatoes which we grow outside - they don't have their side shoots nipped and generally produce an abundance of tomatoes so fingers crossed for this year.
Lizzano Tomato flowers
The tomatoes in the greenhouse (Sungold) don't have any flowers yet, but the sweet pepper has several flowers and one tiny pepper already..
The mangetout (purple-podded) is looking really pretty - people keep thinking its sweetpea, but it's better than that! There are some tiny peapods just beginning to form.
These flowers are on our Tenerife papas...
Looking rather similar to the kestrels...
Not long to wait now for our broad beans. I sprayed them with soapy water a few weeks ago, to kill off the blackfly. I think I put too much Fairy Liquid in the solution and that's why the leaves have gone black. The pods look good and healthy though, just need to fatten up the beans inside a bit more...

For the same meal we'll see if we have any Rosabelle early potatoes under all that foliage!
We've already had some home-grown new potatoes - from Chris, a fellow plotholder. They were Foremost and really were delicious!
We had the AGM on Monday night. Not a massive turnout (it never is) but enough people were there, along with the committee, to make for some interesting debate. A couple of the councillors came along (the mayor, who's a plotholder) and a councillor from Newbury who used to have a plot at Marsh Lane. We're still waiting for decisions regarding the future of Marsh Lane - we won't know until at least September what lease we will have when ours runs out in April 2016 :-(

And lastly, here's our collection of round stones we've found on the site - good aren't they!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Lens-Shaped Things and...

...other stuff.
I had to use that title because of these clouds we saw just as we were leaving the site at about 9pm this evening. I understand they're called Lenticular Clouds e.g. lens-shaped or lentil-shaped! Cool, huh?
Hmm, so what else is lens-shaped..?
This stone - we're certain this is a worked stone tool (we're always hoping to find such things!). Jamie found it on Plot 3. It's lovely and smooth on the flat sides.
 The edge definitely appears to have been worked - that can't be natural surely??
Er.... Lens-shaped...?
No, but pretty
Ok, I've run out of lens-shaped things, so this is what we achieved during our very long day on the allotment.
Jamie did a lot more digging on plot 3 and made a raised bed to go on that plot. We want to grow more chinese radish on there under cover so they have nice white skins.
I sorted out the greenhouse and we're now all planted up - no room for anything else. In fact, there may not be room for the things we've got in there if they grow well!
I'm feeling rather smug about the frame over the gherkins as I cannibalised several old cages to make it. I've hung strings down from the roof for the gherkins to begin their climb before they grab hold of the mesh.
Three Cornichon Paris Vert (mini gherkins)
Thanks to plotholder, Jonathan, for this healthy looking plant. Long cucumbers, so it's got some mesh to grab onto and hopefully the cucumbers will hang down through the shelving.
Burpless Cucumber

Thanks again to Jonathan for these two Tomatillo plants. They're like cape gooseberries, with Chinese lantern style fruits. Good for salsa when they're green (apparently) and jam when the fruits go purple. These are liable to grow out of control - they really need a metre to spread all round, so may need moving if they don't use the mesh as intended...
So, including two peppers (one chilli and one bell) and 2 tomato plants, there it is. All planted up. We've put some marigold in front of the tomato plants - to encourage bees/hoverflies for pollination and deter whitefly.
Yay! The asparagus peas have developed flowers. So pretty.

The plants always look sad initially as they grow flat to the ground, but they should bush out in time.
And here's the start of the courgettes...

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Growing Time

After waiting for the forecast extreme heat then a big thunderstorm, which never arrived, we had a grey day on the plot yesterday and just 1.5mm of rain. But, hooray! We got some blue sky and warm sunshine today so the site was nice and busy.
Kestrel potato flower
Some plotholders have pulled some early potatoes already, but we probably have a couple more weeks to wait. The Tenerife potatoes look happier in the potato bags than they do in the ground, but they're beginning to get some flowers so hopefully they're healthy enough to grow some tubers.

Jamie got a couple more pumpkins planted up in Plot3; adding lots of manure to the hole to feed the pumpkins and cheer up the earth on the plot at the same time. The earth on this plot is reddish in colour; very different from Plots 7&8 which were used for the canal clean-up in the 1980s. We think that the dredgings made the ground very fertile. I planted a row of marigolds along the edge of Plot3 which we hope will encourage bees and other insects to the plot too.
That's a photo of our lovely home-made compost. Amazing to think that consists of just gardening/kitchen waste and ripped up cardboard boxes! We used that, along with some well-rotted manure for our celery seedlings. They are planted in tubs in the hope we can keep it wet enough. We'll see. Last time we tried to grow celery the stems we're hollow...
The beetroot and Silverskin onions are growing well. Most of the garlic looks okay, but some are developing flower heads, so we'll use them early. We had one tonight - not very well developed cloves but very strong flavour!
My boss at work gave us two tomato plants (I need to check the variety- I know they're yellow cherry fruits). They're planted up in a GrowBag in the greenhouse, with string going from the pots to the roof. Exciting! We've never grown toms inside before.

We're unfortunately sharing our strawberries with the ants, but they're still delicious and there's plenty to go round :-)