Saturday, 31 March 2012

Back home

We're home from hols and apparently missed some amazing hot (20°+) and sunny days over the last week, though the thermometer showed that the minimum was -0.5°.

Whilst in Tenerife we saw that the locals are growing lots of potatoes. Some had even harvested some - well it is the island of eternal spring.
This was near La Oratova (up the mountain-side) where they get a lot of cloudy, misty weather so we figure they must mainly stick to growing early varieties to avoid blight. Lovely to see something so familiar growing amongst grape vines and orange trees!

Quick trip to the plot this morning to see what we've missed. Our shallots and onions have a lot more greenery showing. The salad seeds and radishes have sprouted - but no sign of the corn salad or broad beans yet.
We watered everything as there's been no rain but under the surface the earth is still quite damp.
Now we need to start sowing, but not today!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Signs of Life!

Our first shoots have appeared - a couple of the onions have sprouted. None of the other onions or shallots have joined them yet, but the temperature did get to -3° over the last couple of days so I don't blame them for staying wrapped up! So warm today that I'm sure it won't be long now...
The strawberries and raspberries have got new leaves sprouting so hopefully by the time we get back to the plot (not till beginning of April) we'll find a few more spots of green and not just weeds!!
Then we'll be ready to start planting spuds and sowing some more seeds - goodo!

Have you seen this film?

Grow Your Own [DVD] [2007]

This is quite an old film now - 2007 - but if you haven't seen it and you have an allotment then you should watch it.
There are certain to be a few characters you recognise from your own allotment site!

Well, we liked it :-)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Potatoes - more chitting

Robert on the allotment gave us some unwanted Chopin potatoes - so they've gone to join our other spuds which are still chitting in my mum's spare (cold) bedroom.
We hadn't heard of Chopin potatoes and couldn't find them on the Potato Council website, but found this article about them and they sound like a good one to try.
Chopin Potatoes
9 weeks on our other potatoes are looking healthy, with the chits not getting too long - they've got another couple of weeks before we intend to put them in the ground.
We've planned out the potato quarter now, so I can't accept any more potatoes from anyone! It's so hard to say no to freebies though!

We've muddled the varieties in the rows a bit because we want to clear the belana when they're very small and some of the others to make room for our leeks. Because we're going to be planting the leeks at the bottom of the quarter we don't want to make it too acidic but the top two rows we are going to be adding Thompson & Morgan "Brimstone Rapide" to the soil. This should hopefully result in the potatoes which are staying in the ground for longer not being as scabby as they have been previously. Not that scabby potatoes taste bad, but they don't look very pretty!

(I've updated the plan on the Crop Rotation plan tab)

At last - some sowing!

Finally, we've sown something - nothing too exciting yet, we're not risking it after the late (late May) frosts we had last year.
So, Jamie sowed 12 broad beans (Suttons), where the Aqua Dulce died, and put their protective cloches on straightaway to stop the mice getting fed before us. We always put a handful of seed compost at the bottom of each hole before dropping the bean in.
We'll get more broad beans sown later in the year too as they're so tasty.
Plastic bottle cloches
And I sowed 3 small rows of salad crops in the raised bed: corn salad (2 year old seed so not sure how good that will be), radish (Dragon F1 Hybrid) and mixed lettuce (I've bought 2 bags of salad leaf from Tescos recently and I really begrudge doing it!!).
This cloche is covered with a green plastic cover and it's quite dark but the salad seems to do ok in there.
The intention is that I'll sow additional rows of each item in about 3 weeks so there'll be a bit of succession growing - though I recall saying that last year and it didn't work out right.


Jamie did a lot of digging over the last week and has finished the potato quarter - hooray!
Potato quarter
And yesterday he dug a little patch, adding some sand, for spring onions and silverskin onions. Hoops at the ready for enviromesh.

I cleared the area by the bench, took the crazy mint pot home and transplanted the out-of-control sage at the end of plot 8A - just because it would be a shame to throw it away. So I tidied up the herbs and have a pot waiting for par-cel and need another big pot for basil. I split the chives up and have planted them directly into the ground with quite a lot of room for spreading. We're going to sow coriander directly into the ground by the carrot and parsnip trenches.
Herb garden looking a little sad, but it'll be fine...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Another beautiful day!

And it really was, so we spent hours on the plot again along with many other allotment holders. I was intending to sow some salad seeds but instead we spent the time moving the carrot trench along to reduce wasted space in that quarter. It seemed like it wouldn't be too much of a chore, but phew! it was hot work. It'll be worth it though - we'll get a few more broad beans in there now. We mixed in John Innes seed compost to give it good drainage.
We had a few visitors to the plot today. There were quite a few butterflies around and we uncovered several  Angle Shades moth caterpillars, chafer grubs and lots of worms.
I also found this bumblebee, it was cleaning itself and I noticed it had mites on it - if only I'd known (and had a child's paintbrush handy!!) I could have helped her by wiping them off - see this article.

Oh and the little cat came to see us for the first time this year!
He's welcome on our plot and hasn't proved to be a problem to us - may have helped with the mouse problems in the past, but I was happier to see a bit of distance between our plot and this male pheasant!

A beautiful looking enemy!
The last of the carrots I pulled didn't look too great, so I composted them - so no more soup for a few months - I was too tired to make it when I got home anyway!

What a lovely weekend :-)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Faffing on the plot

We did some work on our plot in the afternoon. Jamie has dug half of the potato quarter - it's hard work with lots of roots, but it looks pretty good now.
I cleared the cabbage frame and did a bit of digging but mainly faffed about as I was too tired after the stone-work in the morning - what a wimp :-)
I did enjoy burning weeds and anything else I could find in the communal incinerator on our plot - it's the first stuff we've burned rather than composting or taking home for the bin. We spread the ashes on the potato plot, but there weren't many.
I cleared the chard (and burned it of course!).Previous years we've seen chard survive the winter, even when it was really snowy, but the -11° took it's toll this year so I'll sow afresh.

Also have decided to try growing salsify this year. We've had good and bad reports on it but may as well give it a try and it seems we'll have space.
The weather was lovely, warm and sunny and so nice to see lots of other busy allotmenteers. We (Jamie would say I!) spent a lot of time chatting and looking at the birds. We saw buzzards and kites overhead and also a kestrel plus our usual visitors. It really was a beautiful day.
I know it's not a very good pic, but it's a buzzard

Chain Gang - or should I say working party!

We had a lovely day at the allotment. We were there from about 10:30 and didn't leave till after 4pm. It was such a beautiful day and the first weekend this year when the carpark was really quite busy!

For the first 2 hours we were part of a small work party to clear stones away from the rabbit fencing. It seemed a good idea when HAHA (Hungerford Allotment Holders Association) came up with it, as somewhere to put the piles of stones that we dug up from our plots - but more than a year on and the stones were pushing against the fence and likely to cause damage. Not too sure what the final plan is, but by the end of our work there was a clear space between the stones and the fence.

AND Sue provided us with drinks and lovely flapjacks so it was a very pleasant way to spend the morning!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Brrr so cold

It's been really rainy/sleety and even snowy today so we weren't intending to visit the allotment but had to go and save our raspberries which would have been drowning if they stayed where we left them!

So, we ventured out in the cold, cold rain. One other person had braved the weather to pick some produce.
The raspberries are bagged up in earth now rather than being flooded in our wheelbarrow.
Of course, quite soon after we'd finished doing this the sun came out and the site looked beautiful but we were quite cold enough and went home!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Last of the sprouts

It's March already and it was a lovely sunny morning, luckily we avoided the heavy rain showers.
I picked the last reasonable-looking sprouts before pulling the stalks and adding what I could to the compost bin - the stalks are really too thick to compost, if they're not shredded, so they usually end up in our green bin for the Council to deal with.

The onions and shallots haven't started sprouting yet (well, it's only been a week), but the raspberry plants look happy and buds are still growing on the transplanted ones.

Jamie was digging more of the potato quarter and I cleared the netting so we can completely work that quarter ready for our spuds in April - time seems to be slipping away rather ...

Found this Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar sheltering in the thyme - they hibernate so it's probably been there all winter.