Saturday, 30 April 2016

All about the Colours

The last day of April and I wonder if it'll be the last day of this crazy weather. Sun, snow, hail, thunder and everything else in between - it's been rather exciting!
Jamie re-potted the grafted bell pepper plants. They're looking good at the moment. Britney, the red one, is in the lead. Orange, Milena, is next with the yellow, Chelsea, not far behind.
The greenhouse is getting interesting. That's the Victorio florence fennel. The mangetout I sowed a couple of weeks ago are just emerging - the yellow-podded are Golden Sweet and the purple-podded are Shiraz. But this is the Boltardy beetroot.
Jamie has sowed the Durango Bee marigolds. They're in the hallway under a grow-light. They'll go to the greenhouse once they've developed. We didn't make it to the plot today (hence the over-dramatised post) because the weather stopped us, but we bought some multi-purpose compost and seed trays so I think a bit more shelf-space will be needed in the greenhouse by the end of the long weekend!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Looking (Straight) Ahead

I've said it before, I don't do straight! These two rows of  'Masterpiece Green Longpod' broad beans (plus 3 spares) weren't meant to be parallel or equally spaced. They'll look fine when the plants bush out a bit.
They were going to be about 20cm apart and some of them are...
They had outgrown their modules and had strong roots. A few leaves had been nibbled by slugs but now they're planted out (on a pile of organic matter - this was dug in after it rotted away over the Winter) and have slug pellet protection and the bed is surrounded by netting to stop birds (and children) eating the plants or pellets.
October 2015
We've had some news about alternative allotment sites which the Council (and allotment association) is looking into. An area of the Triangle Field - a Council-owned piece of land, which is currently used by local clubs including rugby, football and theatre. The second possibility is of a new permanent site being created as part of the new housing development plan at the top of town (actually the South). Both these options sound hopeful as they aren't rented from private landlords, with housing development interest...
Not sure where the £100 figure came from - we have at least 50 unallocated poles currently
Well, decisions need to be made and I'm sure this is going to run on for a good while yet :-( You can see from the map that there are very few green spaces around Hungerford!!
Marsh Lane is marked by the peg at top left of map

Saturday, 23 April 2016

St Georges Day Digging

It's our (English) patron saint day - we don't celebrate it. I don't think anyone does - apart from putting the England flag up. At least this year some of us got the day off work (well, it is Saturday!)
We spent the afternoon digging. Plot 3 really is hard work. So much grass and roots to dig through. Most of the time it's a hands-and-knees job, rather than just being able to get a fork into the ground :-(
At least it's looking a bit better now. Our pot raspberry is in position, but it's also going to be caged in, to protect the precious fruit from the birds.

Seedlings are popping up in most of the modules in the greenhouse, but too small to be transplanting them yet. I sowed some purple and some yellow mangetout last weekend - no sign of them yet though.
That's the inside of one of the tulips, so pretty (super-macro unfortunately didn't quite get the stigma in focus). They close up at night and I think they'll be quite short-lived.
And here's a bee tucking into the rosemary nectar. A couple more photos (but no id) on the Wildlife blog -

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Meal with Leeks and Lardons

Two huge leeks from a fellow-plotholder (Thanks Neal!) meant a change of plan for dinner, using ingredients we had available.
So I was cooking - I don't cook very often (hence the blogpost!) and I don't like anything with too much timing/accuracy involved as I always forget to keep track of time (Jamie would say, that it doesn't help when I'm taking a photo every few minutes, but there you go!)

Chopped leeks, with black pepper, were fried until soft-ish and then added to the fried Quorn lardons (vegetarian bacon-style bits) to keep warm while the gnocchi was cooked.
The gnocchi was boiled for ~5 minutes, then drained and fried until golden brown in the leek pan, adding a little flavour.
Tomatoes were added for effect and voila! That's what we had for tea last night - yum!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Potato Day Again

Potato Day is always a rather similar (dull) blogpost, but it's a useful record for us to keep track of what and when we planted - so stop reading now if you don't care what we planted! And here's a picture of a carrion crow to raise interest :-)
Digging the trench is such hard work - a real back-breaker. But it means the patch gets an extra bit of digging. The earth is really claggy; wet and rather clay-ey on Plot3.
We added the shredded paper and grass clippings to the bottom of the trench, along with some manure. It's now a row of 12 Kestrels with one Salad Blue at the end.
The rest of our potatoes we've planted in 6 bags: 
2x Orla (plus a separate 1 Orla)
2x Salad Blue
2x Athlete
2x Chopin
2x Annabelle
The bags were partially filled with a mix of John Innes, Multi-purpose and some potato fertiliser. Now we sit back and wait a bit and hope it doesn't get frosty once they pop through the earth...

Saturday, 16 April 2016


We heard one this afternoon! It sounded like it was across the marsh. I love to hear them, though they are very naughty birds!! We also saw two swifts (or maybe house martens) swoop into the carport next door to the allotment site.
As you can see, it was a busy visit to the plot this afternoon :-) We were so surprised to be in lovely warm sunshine we thought it would be a shame not to make the most of it!
This alien-looking thing is one off our tulips... It should be a proper flower very soon...
We shredded lots of paper this morning and de-needled the remainder of the Christmas tree for the potato planting tomorrow. We also sieved some compost and potting compost for the potato bags.
This is another of our finds on Plot3 ...
Man-made or natural?
I can't tell...
Oh, and this is one of our onions. Most of them have sprouted, but you have to get close to see! At least it shows they're alive.

3-Day Weekend

The plan this weekend is mostly to plant our spuds; some in the ground and some in bags. I've taken Monday off work to make up for today's weather - I've just checked... Not very inviting, if the forecast is right - Ugh, look at those 'feels like' temperatures!
It's been a mixed week weatherwise, drenching yesterday and even a bit of thunder one evening, but Tuesday was lovely! So warm and sunny that my office buddy, Ruth, and I visited the local family-run Savages garden centre in Blewbury at lunchtime.
Pots of tea in the sunshine. Polytunnel envy and a little bit of shopping (I bought a blue hibiscus shrub for £2.95! And some new potatoes and some bird seed. Oh yes, and some lovely relish. Oh, and a home-made cake :)). What a delight!
I could happily sit on that seat all day long!

It was hard going back to work but, now I know where it is, I know I'll be re-visiting Savages, it is lovely!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Nematode Time

It's that time again, preparing the way for a slug free Summer - yeah, right! Well, we do what we can and we use Nemaslug. It's been reasonably successful over the last couple of years and has mostly gone in the patch where our potatoes will be going on Plot3. The ground is very wet on that plot - we're a bit concerned that our spuds will rot before they get a chance to grow. The area is covered with plastic at the moment so, even though it's going to be a rainy week, hopefully the ground won't get any wetter... (hmm, not sure it really works that way, but...)
This is the raised bed for salad and florence fennel. We watered in the nematodes and then watered some more, to help wash them further into the soil, and then covered the bed in black plastic. That should warm the earth up nicely and protect the nematodes from the sunlight.
And there's our beetroot - just peeping through! Only a few seeds have germinated so far, but (touch wood) I've never known beetroot to fail. If it does I'll sow some more; it's pretty fast growing.
We copied fellow plotholder, Vic's idea of putting pots in between the strawberry plants for watering. The plants get so bushy that we find the water (and plant food) often just runs down the outside of the weed suppressant. Each of our strawberry plants got a dose of GrowMore yesterday and a dose of nematodes today - what could be worse than sluggy strawberries?!
That's the plot that I weeded yesterday. The earth looks nice and dark because I've spread the remains of last year's grow bags and potato bags to the area. It hasn't been dug in yet as there are liable to be quite a few weeds and baby tomato plants growing in there before we're ready to plant.
Look at that healthy looking broad bean seedling. We've sowed 24 and we're just waiting for 3 slow ones to break through the surface now. When they're a little bigger we'll plant them out.
This is what we're waiting for now - lovely rhubarb. Nearly there, those stems just need to grow a bit more - a couple of weeks I reckon...

Saturday, 9 April 2016

April Showers; Scuppered Plans

Definitely an April showers day, and some of the showers were heavy and cold - eurgh, not nice to get caught in...(I hope you can see this little animated gif, made up of 11 photos while we sheltered in the car).
Our plan to continue digging the potato plot didn't come to much. Jamie did some digging, but I spent time clearing last year's carrot and parsnip plots. A lot of grotty parsnip and carrot remains were chopped up and added to the compost bin. And 2 soggy piles of thistles, grass and other weeds have been put on a grid to dry - some chance! The patch looked better when we left, but too rainy to stop for a photo.
Our seeds, and a few tiny seedlings, got a nice watering while we left them outside the greenhouse. I sowed salad leaf, rocket and little gem lettuce in a tray last Sunday. Also some chard and Boltardy beetroot into modules. Today I sowed some Florence fennel into modules too. There are also our free petunias 'Night Sky' which arrived as plug plants last week and have been potted on. I hope they grow to be as beautiful as the pictures promise!
Our 3 grafted pepper plants were delivered from Thompson & Morgan during tthe week and Jamie potted them on and put them in a little propagator (an old Roses chocolates container). There's one of each: Britney, Chelsea and Milena.
Here's a link to my latest Chainmail article. Written in January when we were still in misery about losing the site. It's still hanging over us, but nothing seems so bad in Springtime..
During one long shower we escaped to the local Wyevale Garden Centre and bought some Farmyard manure. It was still too rainy when we got back to the plot so we gave up and went home.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

8 Years and Counting

April 5th 2008 was an important date in my life. I was woken by a phone call at 4:50am and told there was a suitable donor kidney available for me at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. I had received this call twice before, but on those occasions the kidney turned out to be a more suitable match to other patients than for me. But, with thanks to the generosity of a bereaved family, it really was third time lucky for me. The actual transplant operation didn't take place till after 11:00pm. The recipient of the other available kidney went to theatre earlier in the day. It was a long day, with lots of x-rays, blood tests and other tests to ensure my fitness and suitability to receive the kidney.
I thought this was funny
My new kidney was a slow starter. It was a long 4 weeks of waiting for blood results to improve before I could finally stop haemodialysis. That was probably the worst period during my whole 'kidney failure experience' and I still couldn't eat all those tasty foods that were considered off limits whilst on dialysis for nearly 4 years.
One of my lovely nurses, Raji, connecting me up for a dialysis session
It was during my convalescence that a note was posted through the door asking if we would be interested in an allotment in Hungerford. We knew it would be good to have a more healthy pastime for my new lease of life, rather than playing games on and fiddling with computers. But it was a bit too early to know how I was going to feel after the transplant so we put our names on the list. It was almost a year after my operation that we received an email saying that a new site was opening in Hungerford and there was going to be a 'stone clearing session' and that afternoon we started digging Plot 7 Marsh Lane.
Since the transplant, and having the allotment, Jamie & I have a healthier diet and lifestyle. The transplant improved my appetite (a little too much perhaps!) and the allotment has gone some way to improve our diet.
I have been mostly healthy over the last 8 years (currently 17 tablets a day keep my blood results on track). I check my regular blood test results online through the brilliant PatientView resource which I understand is available to all UK kidney patients and I meet my consultant to discuss how things are going every 3 or 4 months.
Renal Patient View
Please register as an organ donor and let your family and friends know if you want your organs to be used to improve lives, should the worst happen to you. Your memory will live on through your grateful recipients and your legacy can be saving lives.