Sunday, 29 April 2012

Spuds are up!

A walk in the pouring rain naturally took us under the railway bridge, through the lake which is Marsh Lane and on to the allotment.
The torrential rain and wind had blown some netting around the site but our plot was all in one piece - you can see how much it rained overnight and this morning from our rain gauge - amazing!
And we were pleased to see our first potatoes (Belana) have poked their first leaves out of the ground - knew they'd appreciate the rainfall! That's 3 weeks since they went in.

When we got home I sowed 3 Cape Gooseberries in the bedroom cloche - we bought the dwarf variety otherwise they can grow like crazy - especially if we do get the dry hot summer we're expecting!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Nice weather for snails

Soooo wet and chilly! We transplanted all the marigolds into the bigger trays and I sowed some calendula and put them all in the cloche.
We mulched around the raspberries with well rotted horse manure from Andy at work and took the bottle cloches off the broad beans which are big enough to look after themselves now.
That was enough - as it was we spent more than half the time in the container just watching the birds and enjoying watching the rain from under cover! It sure is getting a good soaking!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Seedlings (& slugs)

Quick visit to the plot after work to see how it's managing after the windy/rainy/sunny week that we've had.

About 10cm of rain
The perspex over the beets had blown across the plot but the beet seedlings are looking happy enough so they should be alright without that protection - I'll sow a few more seeds to fill the gaps.

Boltardy Beets
The silverskin onions carrots and parsnips have all got nice little seedlings growing now. All onion seedlings have the bent over tops so they're easy to spot amongst weeds; carrots are a bit more tricky but if you pull one (even when they're this tiny) they already taste carroty!

Silverskin onions
Early Nantes carrots
The seedlings in the cloches are looking good too though I think we may have to arm ourselves with more slug pellets - this rain is really encouraging them to be out and about, dining on our lettuce seedlings!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Happy St Georges Day (for tomorrow!)

We managed to get some work done today before we got drenched and had to run for cover in the container.

Jamie cleared the area where the leonaris flowers are going to be planted - four of the six seeds have germinated at home in the cloche now. He was attempting to clear all the raspberry plants which have re-appeared since the area was last cleared!

I sowed a row of Oasis turnips - we had some last year. They are meant to taste of melon; not too sure of that description but they are a tasty treat whilst at the plot and they're nice in salads.

We sowed ten Speedy dwarf beans in paper potter pots and put them in the cloche. I also filled the gaps where some of the broad beans haven't yet come up.
There were several terns flying around - they make a lot of noise over the canal and Freemans Marsh. They seem to fight a lot!
We got the flag up for St Georges Day and then went home with very wet clothes :-(

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Potato planting and other stuff

Jamie did all the work today. I've got a cold so just flitted about and mostly sat down enjoying the sunshine. It's definitely April - we've had some torrential showers over the last few days but managed to avoid them all this morning.
That meant that Jamie was able to plant the two remaining rows of potatoes - both about 6" deep with grass/paper at the bottom of the trench and then the usual bag of farmyard manure. These two rows have Kestrel, Orla and the last Duke of York Red (which we intend to leave in as a maincrop).
We were joined by a lot of robins and blue tits on the plot today - the robins are getting very cocky and are willing to pinch worms from a couple of feet away from us now. I spotted the kestrel and he sat on the telegraph wires long enough for me to get this pic of him. It's a bit blurred as I had to zoom in but his lovely pinky plumage really stands out when he's flying over the site.
Most of our seeds are emerging now, including some silverskin onions, beets, cabbages, sprouts, sweet peas, salad crops. No sign of the parsnips, leeks or spring onions but we've found them to be quite slow to germinate previously.
We need to work out our sowing plan for the rest of these busy weeks now, then we can sit back and wait for food :-)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Various forms of life

Well, one week after sowing and the marigolds are already up! If only everything was so quick to germinate - all round site you can see people peering into pots and cloches! One cabbage has showed itself and maybe a carrot but nothing else has appeared yet...
Marigold seedlings
I sowed a few rainbow chard directly into the ground, Jamie doesn't like it and I don't eat it much so really no need to plant more than a few plants - I put the cloches on to protect them from weather and birds for a while. I've added some protection to my row of beets - I thought I saw a seedling there yesterday but it's not there today :-( This bit of perspex may put pigeons off and may help a little with germination.

Much of the afternoon was spent clearing our compost - we did it in January but one bin in particular was rather wet. We took most of the compost out of both bins and mixed it all with some grass cuttings, a bit of manure and lots of broken up corrugated cardboard - that should aerate it and help the worms and many other creatures to help break down the compost.
Took this photo to see how quickly it rots down
It was amazing seeing all the life in there - worms, beetles, slugs, tiny mites and millipedes.
Mini millipede
I also found this nice looking butterfly. He (I think it's a male) was resting on the stone pile around the edge of the site. This one's larvae should steer clear of our plot and eat more hedgerow-type plants - including couch grass!
We've seen very few butterflies but lots of bees and ladybirds so far this year.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Flying visit

Had a little visit to the plot after work yesterday. We thought we were going to get caught in a thunderstorm but it avoided Marsh Lane.
It rained all day on Monday but it barely showed on the ground so we could certainly do with more rain - but hopefully it will come at night, mostly :-)
At last there's life in the broad beans plot - they were sowed in 18th March and we'd almost given up on them!
I put slug pellets in the salad cloche and it seems to have helped so far. However, still one lonely little stem in there!!
These particular slug pellets contain Iron-III Phosphate which bio-degrades in the soil to be used by plants

Sunday, 8 April 2012

More seeding

Dull weather today but not too bad for sowing seeds and Jamie dug manure into the sweetcorn patch.

In the morning we soaked some seeds (sweet peas & beetroot) in hand-warm water for a few hours to help them germinate a little quicker. This softens the tough outer shell of the seed so the seedling can break out more easily... well, that's the plan.
Seeds soaking
The 2 types of beetroot were sown directly into the ground - the Boltardy are in the onion quarter and the Moneta (which are a monogerm variety which means they only grow one root per seed) are sown into the raised bed.

The following were sown into seed trays and put into the cloche:
  • Nelson F1 brussels sprouts
  • Minicole cabbages
  • Sweet peas
I used my Nether Wallop paper potter for the first time to make some pots for the remaining sweet peas (I made the pots longer than the potter is meant to make because I want the sweet peas to get long roots). The potter is designed to make little 3cm pots and they're really sturdy so I really want to find some more seeds that would appreciate a little pot to start growing in.
The salad cloche in the raised bed had a row each of mixed leaf, radish (Dragon F1) and corn salad. The radish look ok but not one corn salad showed up! The mixed leaf started ok but each visit there have been less plants - today there were just 4 tiny seedlings left!! So, my succession sowing hasn't quite gone to plan but another row of each has been sown in the cloche today... and I did buy a new packet of Corn Salad seeds.
4 lonely seedlings!
A whole long row of Little Gem lettuce was sowed in the other cloche in the raised bed, so hopefully I'll have some kind of lettuce for my lunch in a few weeks time...

It's due to rain all day tomorrow and the ground certainly needs it, so I hope the weather people are right for Marsh Lane!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Preparing the way

As well as planting the potatoes we did some tidying. Jamie edged the plot and I mowed the paths to get the grass cuttings for adding to the potato trenches.
The excess earth from the potato trenches was dug into the other plot quarters and we dug a circular trench (1m round) for the runner bean wigwam. We filled the trench with 2 bags of Countrycare Products mushroom compost which we use for water retention but have found previously that it all disappears over the year so the beans and worms must like it!

Look at these silly ducks - they seem not to have noticed the canal running alongside our allotments so were drinking out of a tiny puddle!
There were quite a few other people on the site even though the weather wasn't too great. We spotted Malcolm converting his old divan into carrot cloches covered with fleece.
Aren't zoom lenses good?  :-)
And lastly, if anyone in a position of power reads this blog - we really need a shed!!
Jamie carrying everything to reduce the number of trips to the container

Spuds are in!

Today we planted up two rows of First Earlies. Three different varieties:
  • Belana (4)
  • Red Duke of York (2)
  • Orla (2)
  • Chopin (8)
We mixed up shredded packaging paper (thanks, Amazon!) and grass cuttings for the bottom of the 25cm deep trenches. This should help with water retention and the grass will add some acidity. That layer was topped with the Westland Organic Farmyard manure (from Hungerford's Garden Centre) which has been sitting on the plot for a few months - it had lots of worms in it and we gave it a drenching.

A small layer of earth was added and then the chitted potatoes were put at a depth of about 12cm and then covered completely with our very dry earth.
 The dry edges of the trench were crumbling away as we dug although it did drizzle for much of the day. We still haven't mastered the art of straight lines!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Onions and Shallots

Our onions and shallots are looking pretty happy. Nearly all of them have sprouted; we'll give them a week and pull any which don't want to grow as they may be diseased. Some of the shallots leaves get caught up in the skins so I gave them a helping hand and released the leaves so they can stretch out properly. We've put the newly-sown leeks in with the covered shallots so they get plenty of light.

Freed shallot
Happy onions
I found this fly on the outside of the shallot enviromesh but am pleased to say it isn't an onion fly! It's a Bibio johannis apparently so generally eats decayed vegetation and grass roots.

Bibio johannis

And lastly, we marked up the rows for our spuds - we intend to get two rows planted up tomorrow. We've planned about 45cm between each row to leave enough dirt and room for earthing up.
We've shredded lots of paper and have grass cuttings to add to the bottom of the trenches, mainly for water retention.

Sow & Sow!

We had a good day on the plot today. It was a lovely morning, especially when the sun was shining and only got a bit chilly later in the afternoon. Still cold overnight though -4° at some stage in the last week!

We actually managed to do some sowing in between talking to our plot-holder buddies who had all turned up today. We've sowed:
  • White Gem parsnips; just 14 under enviromesh (to protect from carrot fly) but 3 seeds per hole - it's brutal but we'll cut off the two weakest seedlings if they do all germinate.
  • Early Nantes 2 carrots; 3 short rows under enviromesh as we intend to eat them small.
  • Purple Haze carrots; 1 short row next to the Early Nantes rows.
  • Silverskin onions; 2 rows under enviromesh (to protect from leek moth) - sown crowded so that they hopefully form lovely small, round onions for pickling!
  • White Lisbon spring onions; 1 row in the bed with the Silverskins. Hope to succession sow these this year.
  • Oarsman leeks; 30 in individual pot trays.
  • Marionette mix marigolds; 2 trays covered with vermiculite. Not just because they're pretty - they will be near the tomatoes which should mean they mask the smell to put the whitefly off. Also they're so bright they encourage other friendly beasties to the plot e.g. hoverflies, bees, etc.
    New cold frame for some of our seeds