Sunday, 24 February 2013

Too Cold to Hang Around!

A quick visit to the plot this afternoon to pick some leeks for two days dinners. We picked mostly from the ones which had been undercover and a couple from the ones which have been out in the open.
 The covered ones have been generally larger than the uncovered ones. There are only 3 left in the covered section (though they're not covered anymore).
It was bitterly cold - reached 2° with a low of -4° over the last week and there have been dry flakes of sleet falling for the last two days.
No sign of our robin but the female blackbird was staying close and was had puffed up her feathers for warmth.
Had a quick peeop at our over-wintered broad beans which are still looking ok. Some other beans on site have been taken down by the frost - not sure whether that's the variety that was used or because they had grown a bit too tall too early (like ours did last year).
You can see we're not going to be living on broad beans but hopefully we'll get a few early ones...

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday Snigger

No time or inclination to go to the COLD plot today, so here's a joke - thanks John!

My racing snail wasn't winning any races
I took its shell off to make him more aerodynamic
It didn't work...
If anything, it made him more sluggish

Monday, 18 February 2013

Two Quarters Dug

I was using up a days leave today and the sun shone! It was about 8° so very pleasantly warm in the sunshine. In fact, it's been so sunny that this dandelion decided it was worth opening its flower - shame it had already been pulled up and was on our spoils heap!

And, amazing, we saw our first butterfly! It flew by a couple of times but was going so fast we couldn't identify it - it looked like tortoiseshell-type colours.
Our rhubarb is looking very feeble! I took the cover off it so it can get a little sunshine. It's only its first year though, so we're not expecting it to produce anything this year - except maybe one stalk for some rhubarb vodka!

That is IT!

For the next couple of hours Jamie spent time re-building the frame for our leeks and shallots and I moved the frame for the peas - this year we're growing mange tout and petit pois.
Then for the rest of the afternoon I was digging over the second quarter - where our potatoes are going this year. The earth was pretty easy to dig (though my back is suffering!) and it didn't need a serious dig as we'll be digging trenches for the spuds as usual anyway.
It looked good when we left though so we're half way there - with Plot 7. Plot 8 will be more taxing...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Weeding in the sun

Another dry day and today with sunshine - we really are feeling spoilt!
This was taken at about 5:00
We saw our first ladybird of the year - it appeared to be hibernating on an old brassica stalk. It's a harlequin ladybird.
We had a couple of hours on the plot, just doing some tidying and clearing. So many weeds and so much grass :-( At least it's not too hard pulling them free from the ground as it's been so wet.
Our robin had his nose (beak) put out of joint today by a very cocky female blackbird who was happy to hop very close to pinch worms that 'Robbie' would have had. He was around too but didn't get the first pick of worms :-)
We went home with leeks for tea - still quite a few left in the ground.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

More Days like this, please!

That's more like it! Three days with no rainfall. We've had an inch of rain since our last visit to the plot a week ago -- evidence in the form of our new rain gauge...
It was so good to be digging the plot and having other plotholders to watch and talk to for a change!
The ground is muddy but very diggable (doesn't look like a word, but we know what it means!) and last year's potato quarter looks pretty much ready for this years onions now - we're expecting Thompson & Morgan to deliver our Santero F1 onion sets very soon, joining the garlic which is looking good - 15 bulbs have sprouted.

Garlic shooting up well
While Jamie was doing most of the digging I was clearing away the beets which had grown to mammoth size. Although Boltardy I can't think that they wouldn't be woody so they'll be thrown away but I left them on a spare bit of plot for the mice to enjoy for a bit. As I was pulling them I saw a lot of centipedes, spiders and slugs. Hopefully the birds will deal with clearing the slugs and the slug eggs we found. See the Wildlife blog for more

Friday, 15 February 2013

Asteroids and Meteors

After the amazing footage of the meteorite falling in Russia this morning I'd been looking forward to seeing the DA14 asteroid this evening from the well-placed allotment site.
Russia, not Hungerford
We took our flask of coffee, binoculars, camera, sky map and star map Android app along with a little rum and settled in the container at about 7:30 ready for the start of the 'show' at 7:50.
It was a fabulous night for star gazing. Lovely and clear with a newish moon not causing too much light. The DA14 asteroid passed between Earth and some satellites but it's only small so not visible to human eye without at least binoculars.
DA14 asteroid image
The moon looked great through the binoculars and Jupiter was shining brightly. Sadly, finding the planned location of the asteroid wasn't as simple as that. My hands were shaking so much with the chill that I could barely make out the stars of the plough constellation through the binoculars. So, tracking down the star M94 and the asteroid near that was an impossible task!
So, we returned home fairly quickly, just as clouds began to cover the sky. Never mind, we'll stick to going out for the perseids in August when it's warmer and easier to spot!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chitting Spuds for 2013

So, here's the essential blog photo :-)
All our seed potatoes chitting at my mum's house - in the nice, cold, light spare room.
Here's the psychedelic picture to identify the different varieties...
This is what they really look like:
And these are all our kestrels - probably more than we want, but there's always the spares table at the allotment site. We bought these from the Wyvale Garden Centre where they were stored in a much warmer room, hence the chits already forming.
 The earlies definitely benefit from chitting, as we want lots of little spuds to form but maincrops don't really need to chit in advance of being planted. However, it would be too early to put them in the ground now - apart from the fact that it's soaking wet!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Selecting potatoes and a Soggy Plot

It snowed all morning and was extremely cold and wet so we went shopping for our potatoes as planned.

We went to Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage as the owner is a bit of a connoisseur. We were able to select individual spuds for 15p each so this is what we chose (the links go to the British Potato database):
  • 2 x Accent (First Earlies)
  • 3 x Casablanca (First Earlies that look so lovely I had to have some)
  • 3 x Arran Pilot (First Earlies Have such good reviews we thought we'd try them)
  • 5 x Pentland Javelin (First Earlies seem to have the best reviews from what we've seen)
  • 3 x Red Duke of York (First Earlies Not great last year but fancy some red new potatoes)
  • 2 x Bonnie (Second Earlies)
  • 3 x International Kidney (Second Earlies)
  • 20 (ish) x Kestrels (Second Earlies - these are our favourite for mash and all-rounder)
  • 4 x Orla (Early Maincrop so tasty, so hopefully more successful than last year's failed crop)
We selected based on slug/disease resistance, our experience and on reviews we've seen on the internet - along with a certain amount of shallowness based on colour :-) We really would have liked a few Chopin as they were very good last year, but they were sold out.
We also bought a small bag of Golden Gourmet shallots.
In the afternoon we popped up the soggy plot to take up a replacement rain gauge - our last one melted as I forgot about it when I lit a bonfire.
As we walked home we spotted some great wood left by the industrial estate skip, so we picked it up and walked back to the plot - it'll be perfect for growing my onion squash (uchiki kuri) over, which will save ground space and might serve some protection against slugs.
I was pleased to see that our chives are growing happily through the snow and cold, so we'll have some with our new potatoes - mmm, can't wait but will leave them chitting round my mum's house for a few weeks yet!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Composting keeps you warm!

A day off work meant we could have a few hours on the plot. It felt reasonably warm and the sun even shone for a bit. 
Terns flying overhead

There was a lot of birdlife, particularly the kestrel, robin, terns, pheasants and pigeons. Also the red kite was swooping and calling; It was beautiful.

We pulled up the remains of the sprouts - these parts can't be composted, they'll take too long to rot down.
We spent a few hours sorting out the compost bins. We took all the soggy compost from both plastic bins and mixed it with dry cuttings, plot clearance and lots of recycled cardboard from home. 
Just part of the mix
After a good mix it completely filled one bin (which can be left for a year) and the remainder went in the other bin.
Plot 7 is beginning to look like it's getting ready for planting but there's still a lot to be done. The ground is still so wet, far too claggy to walk on really. We're hoping to buy our spuds tomorrow as more rain is due so we won't be on the plot.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Weeding and Digging

Looks pretty doesn't it?
Not so good when you see it in less detail, though still vaguely pleasing to the eye ....
But just horrible when you see it in real life!
Ugh. Weeds, moss. mud and spring onion remains. All thriving under the netting which we hadn't cleared away.

Now, I'd love to write the identity of this moss, but as is always the case when you start looking into these things, you find it's a much larger subject than you may originally think! Suffice to say, there's a LOT of moss in the UK!

I'm pleased to say that by the time we left the plot today the area was weed free, dug and looking much more loved - we're hoping that the moss will just die off and the birds can eat up any slug eggs they find!

Planning for this year (Part One)

We didn't make it to the plot yesterday - shame as it was a sunny day but we've just got too many germs between us to bear going out in the cold!

So, we did a bit of planning. We've drawn up part of this years plan - the basics for Plot 7.
We're going to be moving more plantings to Plot 8B - the sweetcorn will be over there, with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins growing through them...
The celeriac will also go back on Plot 8B - possibly in the same spot as last year but this year I'm growing from seed. Ditto for fennel; I need to read up a bit about how/where to grow it. Last year I sowed it in the herb bed, because I didn't realise the difference between herb fennel and the big bulb type I want for soup.

On Plot 7 I'm thinking of having some sort of trellis for the Uchiki Kuri squash - but this definitely needs a bit more work!

Another new vegetable for us this year is salsify. I've seen that it doesn't need a lot of work and stays in the ground till October/November so I'm not too sure where that will go yet - maybe in with the parsnips - but that is a very busy quarter already!

Hmm, writing this has made me realise we need to do a lot more planning - I'll call this blog entry 'part one'!