Thursday, 31 May 2012

What annual leave is for

Of course, we spent most of the day on the allotment. We had it to ourselves much of the time - it wasn't sunny but still pretty warm.
I planted out the celeriac (14 plants) on the new plot - half are under a green cloche and the others are just protected from birds. We need to keep them well-watered.
The mange tout have flowered already and are growing much better than the sweet peas - I think a little Growmore may be needed for them!
Mange Tout flowers
What happens to parsnips if you don't pull them up! (Not our plot!!)
We bought some pots and filled them with Grow bags and some John Innes young plant compost for the peppers - they should tumble over the sides, but the pots look a bit lonely at the moment...
We've started to see ladybird larvae and soldier beetles on the plot now, also lots of bees as there are quite a few flowers around for them now.

Silver Y moth
I found this moth on our netting.The moth takes nectar from flowers, but of course the caterpillars enjoys tucking into brassica and garden peas(!) as well as nettles - well, hopefully this ones babies will stick to nettles... ho hum...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Watering, watering

Another lovely hot and sunny day meant that we needed to water again this evening. We watered everything but are taking care to avoid leaves particularly on the onions which suffered so badly from downy mildew last year.

The cabbage have settled in really well and I'm sure they've grown a few centimetres already! Plenty of water for the broad beans which are covered in flowers and bees, ants and bugs are doing their best to pollinate so we get some lovely beans!
I chopped the parsley down to ground level, hoping it will recover quite soon... The chives are covered in lovely purple flowers but I'll need to chop that down soon too so that we get some fresh growth to use. The par cel seeds have germinated.

Jamie sowed our Earlibird sweetcorn in the bedroom propagator - they should germinate pretty quickly and we'll get them in the ground as soon as possible. We only want 9 plants so out of 12 seeds we hope we'll be ok...
The turnip leaves are being eaten away by flea beetles (probably) but hopefully the turnips will still grow and the beets are getting quite big but no bulbing up yet - I'm getting impatient!!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Comparing this year to last year

Just a couple of quick visits to the plot over the last couple of days. It's been soooo hot we couldn't have done much anyway but everything needed watering. It doesn't take long to dry the top few inches of earth but it's still damp low down where the roots are.

Stitch of Plot 7
The fennel and coriander seeds have germinated and the most recent spring onions have appeared now. The latest carrots have been as poor as the earlier sowing, with only about 3 seeds germinated so far - don't think I'm going to get much carrot soup this year :-( But (touch wood) the parsnips are looking good.
I feel that the year's running away from us a bit. We planned to go a bit slower and probably everything will catch up but with this type of weather it makes me panic thinking plants should be a bit further ahead than they are. I thought the plot isn't looking as alive as it did this time last year but now  I see the photo (see below) it's pretty similar....
Our plot at this time last year
It's just that the potatoes are a couple of weeks slower so aren't looking so good and the covering over the onions and shallots makes me forget they're there (which explains why there were so many weeds in there yesterday!).

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Summer's here!

Jamie went to the plot in the early afternoon. Did some more digging of the new plot but nearly killed himself in the process - well, it was about 25°! I joined him after work but mostly sat in the sunshine and watered a bit later in the evening. Incredible weather! The little greenhouse reached 45° - we took the plants out and left them under mesh overnight. Sunshine should reduce the number of slugs round the place.

Geoff kindly gave us some of his spare mange tout plants so they're planted the other side of the mesh from the sweet peas. I've protected them with mesh as pigeons love them.
I only took 10 plants; Jamie doesn't like mange tout so they'll be something else for my lunchbox - I think I may need more than an empty ice-cream tub by the amount of veg I'm going to have to eat!!
Mange Tout
Our Lizzano F1 tomato plug plants arrived from Dobies - they're supposedly blight resistant and are tumblers so we'll need to put them in a biggish pot so they don't just tumble on the ground and go rotten.

The coriander seeds have just sprouted and I've put chicken wire over the turnips as the pigeons are rather partial to those little seedlings too - forgot they enjoyed them last year!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

More digging

We finished what we wanted to do today and now we're broken! We dug in a peat-based bag of compost from B&Q to aid water retention for the celeriac. Jamie says we should dig to "a spade and a half depth"; well, if he does a spade then I think I do the half! It's so tiring but worth it for the end result.
We added some Epsom Salts (for magnesium enrichment) to the shallots which are looking a bit yellowy. We added some Growmore general feed to them yesterday to give them a helping hand.

Jamie planted out the 3 Speedy dwarf french beans which grew in the pots - none of the other beans germinated but we'll be planting some more in a few weeks.

We moved our Leonaris, one of our peppers and the one Rocky cucumber which has emerged up to the plot - they'll stay in the cloche for a bit to harden off. We put them on top of some EcoCharlie slug deterrent.
Here are some of the weeds (or wildflowers if they were growing somewhere else!) we are contending with...
Dead Nettle
Not sure what this is but it grows in abundence
on any uncultivated plot

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Ow - digging's painful!!

Jamie dug a bit of the new plot during the week and that's what we were doing for a few hours today - really forget how painful digging is!! We're concentrating on digging an area where we'll plant the celeriac.
Angle Shades moth pupa

The weeds are up to our knees and include grass (couch mostly), nettles, docks, margolds, groundsel and others which I'm not sure of yet. Some have terribly long roots. Oh yes, and the previous tenant's potatoes are doing pretty well for the second year - though they're too blighty to eat :-)
It's a haven for wildlife - particularly beetles, slugs and worms. There are masses of ladybirds around at the moment, but not any aphids for them to eat at present. We also found lots of pupae - mostly Angle Shades moth ones but also smaller ones.... 

Waiting to eat our veg before us!
Beautiful ground beetle
A shiny beetle with mites
Oh, I did plant out the sweet peas - 22 of the seeds germinated and didn't get eaten by slugs. They're looking happy so to keep them that way I surrounded them with mesh. Pigeons love peas, I don't know if sweet peas taste the same but I don't want them to get wiped out before they can afford to lose a few leaves!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A growing allotment

Really excited! We've taken over the rest of Plot 8 :-)
It's completely overgrown at the moment but we plan to use it for some fruit - Jamie wants blueberries and I want some little fruit trees (apple and plums). It also gives us room for a pumpkin so we'll have to see!
Plot 8B in all its glory!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sun, seeds and plans for soup!

So warm and sunny today - it really felt like May! Marsh Lane was the busiest we've seen it in weeks - a really active allotment site.

And we weren't just sitting in the sun - well, not the whole time. We managed to get everything done that we intended to, including trimming the fringes of the grass paths and mowing the one between our two plots.
Plot 7
Jamie dug our home-made compost into pea/sweet pea trenches - either side of last year's pea frame. We sowed the following seeds:
Various squashes
Last week at work I had some celeriac and fennel soup - the first time I've had either of those ingredients - and it was so delicious! I decided that I'd grow celeriac but thought I was a bit late deciding to sow the seeds so when I spotted a trayful for £1.49 at Yew Tree Garden Centre I had to buy them! So, I transplanted about a third of the seedlings into modules and they're in the allotment cloche with the rest of our seedlings.
Celeriac seedlings

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mint and Parsnips

We had a lovely day up the plot today - most of the time in the sunshine and really warm.
We dealt with our parsnips - we had sown 3 seeds into each position and most have germinated this year (we didn't get any to germinate last year). So, today we thinned them down to just one seedling to each position - seems a shame but we don't want masses of small parsnips; just a few biggish ones.
I'm still not happy with the herb plot - have changed it at least twice already this year! So, I moved the parsley away from the thyme and the chives (lucky most of the herbs are in buried pots). It all needs cutting back a bit but don't want to do it while there's a risk of frost.

One herb we don't have this year is mint but I saw both these on the site today and yesterday!
Mint moth
Mint beetle - beautiful!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sowing for carrot and coriander soup!

We went for a quick visit to the plot this afternoon - managed to avoid the rain and catch a few rays for a time too.
Didn't take many photos so here's a nice cloud to brighten the page - though it was trying to un-brighten (not sure that's a word!!) the day :-)

We sowed a couple more rows of Early Nantes carrots (surrounded with slug bait). Our original rows are looking very sparse - I think we'll be lucky to get any purple haze from that sowing.
Also sowed a replacement row of the lettuce mix in the salad cloche which was completely wiped out - the succession row of them appears to be ok for now though...

Sowed a few coriander between the carrot and parsnip trenches. It prefers to be sown directly into the ground, apparently doesn't transplant well - we grew some the first year and it did really well. Well, you can't beat carrot and coriander soup!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mostly beasties & phenomenon

Well, we got up to the allotment at 4:15am ready and waiting for the 'supermoon' only to be disappointed because there was thick cloud cover - such a shame, it could have been a goodun!
We fleeced up our potatoes yesterday expecting a frost but due to the clouds there wasn't one though it was pretty chilly - that was an amazing thing too; the temperature was 5.5° at about 5:15am then it dropped suddenly to 2.8° just before the sun rose (though we couldn't see it).

Being at Marsh Lane for the dawn chorus, including a very noisy cuckoo, was fabulous. The birds are going crazy at the moment - we've been watching a robin feed his mate over the last couple of days. She's quite demanding!

This male blackbird was warming itself on the warm stones pile
Anyway, after that early start we did get back up the plot later today to do a bit of faffing and chatting.
Here are some pictures of interesting beasties I snapped yesterday and today.
A queen wasp who got splashed with dirty water, so she was cleaning her antennae
One of the many crane flies around site at the moment
I think this is a 16-spot ladybird - really tiny, ~3mm
I posted the ladybird to the UK Ladybird survey site as I'm not absolutely certain of it's identity.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Mostly talking onions

We had a great day on the allotment - several hours of pottering around and chatting to fellow plot holders. Even had time to burn a lot of old weeds and bamboo canes (we checked very carefully for ladybirds and other good guys first).
We put our bean wigwam up - just 6 x 8ft canes. That's enough runner beans for us; plus plenty to give away at work!
I spent much of the time weeding, particularly around the onion plot. The seedlings are growing happily now.
Oarsman leeks
Silverskin & 'White Lisbon' Spring Onions
Spring onions, silverskin onions and leeks seedlings all look similar with the same bent-over grass blade look - the first year we took on the plot we thought they were grass, until we pulled them out and the smell of onion was really strong even with a tiny seedling - luky otherwise the whole row would have been pulled up!!

The shallots are dividing well - some of the leaves appear to have signs of downy mildew (the curse that we had with onions last year). Not too suprising given the weather but hopefully it won't cause too much damage...

And the onions are looking happy too - though when we got home I noticed this little hole in the onion leaf - well, we know there's always some insect that wants to get at our produce before us!!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Growing, growing and eating

Popped up the plot after work to see how things were looking. The cabbage and sprout seedlings  look healthy. We'll move them out of the cloche but under netting in the next week or so - depending on the weather.
Cabbage seedling
Marigolds & sweet peas
The eating in the title isn't by us yet, sadly! However, we've got so many marigold seedlings we can afford to lose a few to the abundance of slugs!
And we found this evidence of a mouse's work in the cloche! Funny (sorry Neal) thing is that the broad bean seemed to have been taken from our neighbour's plot to be enjoyed in the dry! 
Neal's beans nibbled down to ground level
The turnip seeds have germinated and the whole first row of potatoes (Belana and Chopin) are above the ground now.