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 :-)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Too Cold, Too Hot = Never Happy!

I'm sorry. I've moaned about the weather so much recently and today was absolutely beautiful; blue sky, hot temperature and no wind! But I'm still moaning. It was too hot and I had to hide a lot! I'm really sorry!
I'm not sorry that these lovely strawberries didn't make it home as they were delicious!
We spent most of the day talking to all the other plotholders, with a little bit of gardening in between chats. It was great to be alongside so many fellow growers. I managed to pass on all the remaining chard seedlings and a spare courgette plant which is better than us planting up the surplus and just wasting it on our plots. We already have four chard plants - each different colours and Jamie doesn't even like the stuff!
This is one of our rainbow chart plants - still tiny
The picture below is of the chinese radish seedlings - you can see that the flea beetle has got to every leaf. The swede growing next to it (not under cover) has slug damage, but I'm hoping enough seedlings will survive otherwise I may sow a few more.
Plot 3 is more than half dug and has 2 pumpkins, 1 courgette and 2 Bush Delicata Winter squash.
2 wrapped up pumpkins and my UV-blocking sun umbrella
Oh yes, and Jane (the previous tenant) left her little bit of fencing, as well as her table and chairs, so we put that alongside the path. Isn't that cute :-)
Picket fence by the courgette and winter squash
 Salad lunches from the plot started last week. Unfortunately I've eaten all the available radish, so it's just varieties of lettuce, chives and fennel leaves at the moment - I do add shop-bought ingredients too! It'll be a while till we have any tomatoes, peppers or potatoes to add - but at least we're on our way...
I love my salad spinner!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Planting! And Sunshine!

The sun shone for much of the day and by lunchtime the wind had ceased so we were safe to do quite a lot of planting, including this row of  Russian Giant sunflowers along the back of Plot 7. There are 7 plants which range in height from about 20 - 50cm at the moment.

Plots 7 and 3 have each gained Defender courgettes, with pots which may make it easier to water once the plants get big. They're planted on top of a hole filled with manure, for moisture retention and nourishment.
Plot 3 has the first of its Jack of All Trades pumpkins, plus a Curry plant (herb) which we bought yesterday. It really does smell of curry and you can apparently add it to vegetables and rice for flavouring. It's very pretty with silver leaves and it gets yellow flowers which can also be used in cooking.
Curry Plant
This pumpkin plant has rather a long stem and given that it's been such a windy year we're protecting it for a while with a netted cloche. Hopefully it will soon be big and strong enough to not need the protection.
We planted out the two grafted Lizzano tomato plants - they're happy outside in pots but the pots need to be tall as they trail and get huge (at least they have over the last couple of years). The top pot has the bottom cut out of it, so the plant has all that soil (plus manure) to grow roots into.
Lizzano Tomato
Jamie's sown the Rocky cucumbers, at home, for planting out later. We're hoping they'll grow up a trellis.
I planted some asparagus pea plants on Plot 3 and transplanted some spare lettuce seedlings that haven't really got a home - better to put them in Plot 3 than compost them...
Asparagus seedling
We found this little nettle weevil in my hair when I got home! Cute!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wind, Stupid Wind and Wind

Ugh! Windy weather - too windy! Cloches are blown about, compost bin lids turn into frisbees, broad beans are leaning and, most irritatingly, my hair gets in my face and bugs me!

However, I'm on leave and Plot 3 needs digging, so that's what we did (when I wasn't hiding in the greenhouse during yesterday's rainstorm).

At least there was no rain today and it was a bit warmer so we got a lot done (which is why I didn't take many photos). Plot 3 is quite well protected by the trees, but still anything put down today was blown away.

We picked up a free petunia from the Hungerford Wyevale Garden Centre yesterday, so that got planted up in a hanging basket that someone had left in the communal area for re-use. We figured Plot 3 needs a bit more pretty-ing up than the other plots at the moment and I'm pleased to say it's survived the wind so far!

This is the dodgier side of the new plot. There are a lot of raspberry plants, including some yellow-fruited variety, but it has a lot of grass and other weeds that need clearing. Still, it looks like we'll get more raspberries from this plot than from Plot 8 where I think I've managed to pretty much destroy our plants with my pruning technique :-(

This pheasant egg wasn't a victim of the wind - more likely a magpie by the way its been pecked out.
Helicopters were flying back and forth yesterday - I thought they looked a bit arty in this touched-up photo, with someone else's beanpoles to prove they're over the allotment site!
We're still picking rhubarb for our desserts but had to chop another flower off the Victoria rhubarb, which has nearly finished its season - the leaves are beginning to collapse. So, we're eating the Raspberry Red now - a couple of long stalks is enough for the two of us.

Here's my latest ChainMail article - all about the wildlife that we share our allotment life (and veg) with - I really must make my next article more positive!

Marsh Lane Open Day
15th August 2pm BBQ, tombola, produce, stalls