Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Before you Leave

I received a 'help - urgent' message on my phone at the weekend, from a plotholder. It was because her partner and a fellow plotholder had to hide in a polytunnel while this lot decended on the site - the plotholders felt like they were being dive-bombed as the sky turned black and the buzzing built to a crescendo!

Honey Bee swarm

By the time I got there the excitement was over so I just took a few photos. I think they're honey bees. The swarm had selected a blackcurrant bush to rest on while the bee scouts went to find a suitable location to re-home.

Honey Bee swarm

They had moved on when we looked a couple of hours later so I was a bit disappointed to have missed them leaving. 

Bearded Iris

I'm suprised they didn't decide to stay on site with Ivan's amazing bearded iris plots providing a colourful centrepiece to our site. They really are stunning and a real talking point as people walk to their plots.

Ivan's Bearded Iris

I'm pleased that we can sit on our bench on Plot7 and see the lovely colours. The whole site is looking beautiful at the moment, especially at the sunny weekend with lots of plotholders working and bringing various plants down to plant up - it's a fab time of year, isn't it?

Freshly dug plot

The recent sun-rain-sun weather has been perfect for growing (weeds) and has made digging easier, so we managed to clear and dig the final quarter of plot 7. There are two deep holes filled with manure for the courgette and pattypan to be planted into in a week or two. The rest of that quarter will be for sweetcorn and maybe a few flowers and other bits and bobs.

Potatoes growing

The potatoes have all emerged, with plenty of space for earthing up when the time comes. And the beetroot and radish will be providing me with a bit of salad quite soon. The florence fennel mostly germinated but is always at risk from slug damage - I'm hoping that sown into the middle of a plot it may be less susceptible... 

The carrots and parsnips have been less successful.... germination has been very poor even though we've done two sowings of carrots (already). It looks like I may get 8 parsnips(!) from the thickly sown row. I may have to try another sowing of them as I do love parsnip soup.

Broad Beans

At the moment we're only harvesting rhubarb but the broad beans are on their way, plumping up nicely. The aphids have found them, of course, so whenever we find a ladybird we put them onto the beans to have a good feed and hopefully stop the beans getting spoilt. I thought this one was a Pine Ladybird, because of the rim round its wing-cases, but it seems it is just a Harlequin.

Harlequin ladybird

We have various seeds germinating in the polytunnel - still no giant sunflowers though 😞. A few of all the beans need re-sowing but we expect to have at least five plants of each type which will be plenty for us. We've dug the area on plot 8 for 3 wigwams - over holes filled with manure.

Plot7 and 8 Marsh Lane

I have a few days off soon and hope to get the holes, or trench, dug for this year's squash tunnel. Plot3 is looking a bit abandoned at the moment, but shouldn't be too tricky to get that ready for squashes. I haven't been doing much cooking but have prepared this year's chive flower vinegar.

Chive flower vinegar

And, I've been doing a bit of this.... but more on that another time..

The song title is provided by Pepe Deluxe - and is referring to the bees. I'm suprised to see that I haven't used this song before, it's so great! Dance along now 😄

Monday, 9 May 2022

Month of May - Arcade Fire

What a beautiful May weekend we’ve had, after a rather grey start to the month.

Jacob’s Ladder

We've had some of the rain that all us gardeners were waiting for, but there’s little sign of it on the site apart from the weeds growing taller! We spotted a couple of these (below) on the wildlife plot. Often mistaken for fungi, it's the spore-bearing 'flower' of horsetail (aka Mares Tail).

You can see the green shoots of the more familiar ferny plant just appearing. It's an interesting perennial with very deep roots and is a reason why some areas of our site aren't used as plots - though it's only a problem if left to run rampant. We’ve finally confirmed that we have teasels growing on the wildlife plot when we noticed the little 'ponds' in their leaves. So, I never realised that teasels are carnivorous but they gain extra sustenance from insects falling into these rain traps. Here's an interesting read about it.

Teasel water trap
Our own little pond on our plot has two frogs in it now. The tadpoles, if they haven’t been eaten, are lying low. They're about 6-weeks old now so may be moving on to a meatier diet and legs could start appearing, especially on the ones in the wildlife pond which have always been bigger than others on site.
We’ve been planting and sowing over the last two weekends: Blue Lake climbing French bean, Yin Yang dwarf French bean, Gigantes and Borlotti beans are all sown into pots in the polytunnel. The Zinnia are in modules on a window sill at home and Jack of All Trades pumpkin, All Green bush courgette, Sunburst patty pan and Mangomel melon are in pots under the grow-light. And today I sowed some Florence fennel directly into the ground.


The Shiraz mangetout, grown in the guttering, have been planted out and I added a few more seeds in attempt to get some successive harvests. The frame has a protective net otherwise the pigeons will decimate them as they’ve done previous years.

Potato planting plan 2022

On the last day of April we planted our potatoes. I’m looking forward to the Salad Blue; I hope they’re as blue/purple as the Congo that we grew a few years ago - I just checked, that was 11 years ago! Wow, how time flies. And yesterday Jamie planted 4 Nicola into bags.

On Saturday we weeded on plot3. It was hard work, as the ground is so dry, but it looks a bit better. Some of the grass was too difficult so I’ll deal with that after giving the ground a bit of a water. I hope you can tell which is the After photo - thought there's still a lot of work to be done before I can get my squashes in (well, they're not sown yet so I have time).Before and AfterWhilst working on Plot3 Jamie opened our storage chest and found a wasp nest - it was only at embryonic stage but we couldn't leave it where it was. We felt guilty, but flicked it over the hedge and ran away as the wasp queen zoomed round trying to locate her babies. I live in hope that she found them and continues the nest in the hedge, but that's probably unlikely. More photos/info on my Wildlife blog.

Embryonic Wasp Nest
We've been going to the allotment most days for watering. I like eating my lunch up there but it's so hard returning to work! With no rain forecast for at least the next week we'll be visiting a lot in May, but it is so perfect. We have great tits nesting somewhere on our plot and have seen the bullfinches nearby. Our visits are accompanied by the cuckoo over the marsh and a little bird, possibly some sort of warbler, singing a very repetitive song.
Watering carrots
The purple sprouting brocolli went completely to flower and the leeks have woody centres so those remaining have been cleared. I'm still eating the dried beans from last year though and was very pleased with these bean burgers. Borlotti, gigantes and runner beans blended together with chives, tomato paste, rose harissa pesto and some oak-smoked olive oil. I did more beans than I needed so the burger was significantly larger than the bun, but was delicious.
Home-Made Bean Burger
What a lovely month May is! Such a busy site with everyone talking about what they're sowing and growing. Rhubarb will be on the menu this week and broade beans should follow quite soon. Aah... now, back to work Belinda!
Arcade Fire provide the title song.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

No Rain

April’s a tease; making us think it’s sowing time, or even Summer-time, then going cold and windy.

We had a few hours on the plot last Saturday and Sunday. Lovely in the sunshine; chilly in the easterly breeze.

Hairy-Legged female bee
Hairy legged bee (female) on Dead Nettle

The wildlife plot is a year old this week. The bog garden plants have spread well and the cowslips will definitely need dividing for next year. There are seedlings popping up, along with a few more flowers, though mostly dandelions which we try to clear before they seed but the bees do love them.

Wildlife plot - one year old
The radish seeds sown last week have germinated and something is already enjoying them 🙄

Radish seedlings
We sowed some more sunflowers and rainbow chard - into modules so that I can plant on the coloured ones rather than the green leafed plants. Also, our grafted tomato plants have been delivered - Crimson Plum. We’ve potted them on and they’ll stay home until the weather behaves or the plants get too straggly.
Grafted tomato plants
Look at my Loves Lies Bleeding seedlings! They’re so tiny, like cress at the moment. I'm wondering whether I shouldn't have sown them in clumps.
Loves Lies Bleeding seedlings
Jamie put his new toy composter together. It’s a rotator and is meant to produce compost in 3-4 weeks! It doesn't hold very much, but if it's successful we could try a larger model.
Rotator composter
Beside the composter there is a pot of snowdrops. I planted those snowdrops about 20 years ago at home and they've never produced a flower or divided! I'm hoping it was their position rather than the actual plant. We'll find out next year...
Rotator composter
And I did a bit of digging on Plot3. Trying to keep up with our new neighbours 😀
Freshly dug

The strawberries are flowering around the site. The night-time temperatures are close to freezing at the moment though so those flowers may not make it into fruits - as happens most years. These plants are in the polytunnel so may get away with it, as the temperature is held up by about 1°

Strawberries flowering

The song title is brought to you by Blind Melon (although we did have a tiny shower on Monday, you get the gist!)

Tuesday, 19 April 2022


What a beautiful Easter weekend! Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures every day. Those clouds just started to get darker on Monday afternoon - good timing!

We spent hours on the allotment over the lovely 4-day weekend. I dug through the area in front of the bench. Lots of couch and hedge roots to remove from the area which has been under weed-suppressant for a few years. 

Plot 7 Marsh Lane

One particularly large root took a lot of tugging; when it gave, I discovered that it was a (the?) tap-root of the Lovage plant DOH! So I'm quite expecting part of that lovely plant to die off soon... The wet patches are where I've sown some chrysanthemums - I want that area to be a beautiful flower bed... we'll see!

Lovage leaf

Jamie was working on the carrot trench and it's environmesh cage then sowed two rows of carrots (Eskimo and Early Nantes 5). We really hope they do better than last year when we hardly had any carrots to eat. We're being more generous with our sowings this year, where previously we've been a bit tight; we've decided to sow lots and plan on thinning more than we usually do.

Carrot trench

I've been more liberal with my beetroot, parsnip, radish, spring onion and lettuce seeds that went in on Sunday too. 

The watering regime has started. As you can see the ground is very dry, but there may be a few showers this week.

Carrots, beets, spring onions, salad

I cleared some weeds and some of the masses of nigella seedlings near the pond. I transplanted a couple of houseleek and hope that they'll spread across the area.


The pots next to the bench will be moved when I plan to have Love Lies Bleeding growing there. The seeds, along with some more sunflowers, are sown into pots and in the polytunnel so I'm hoping the night temperatures don't dip too low. 

The pots are full of various flowers and bulbs including the tulips that my nephew, George, gave us for Christmas which are just developing. Also the bay laurel from my sister, but the cold winds hit it when it was in a different position and some of the leaves went brown. I'm hoping it'll be happier in that more protected spot.

Tulip bud

Meanwhile the wallflowers are providing a lovely scent, even though they're beginning to go over now. They come back every year and are messy but so pretty. My mum always insisted on pulling them up each year and then I'd go searching for new plants each spring.


We managed another PSB harvest along with some leeks. Much of the Purple Sprouting Brocolli is covered in yellow flowers now, but I wouldn't be surprised to see another lot of shoots now that I've chopped these off.

Final(?) harvest of PSB plus leeks

I've made leek and chestnut soup, with turmeric, for my lunches. I had to have a taster - delish.

Leek and Chestnut soup

And lastly, we have a frog in the pond on the wildlife plot! I'm not sure if he found his own way there. He may have arrived with a lot of duckweed, which I think the tadpoles will appreciate as protection.


The song title is provided by Weezer - it may have only been 4 days but it felt like a holiday. Bliss!

Monday, 11 April 2022

Hip Hop Hooray!

Another weekend of cold nights but both days the sky was mostly blue and it was pleasant weather to work in. 

Unusual wildlife spotted on Plot5
Unusual wildlife spotted at Marsh Lane

I managed to finish digging another quarter of Plot7. The digging is ok, but every fork brings up a load of roots - we think they're tree/hedge roots which benefitted from last year's bean trenches. Jamie tidied up after me to remove the lumps and bumps.

That photo makes the earth look awful, but it's not that dry really. Here, this makes it look more like real life. Two quarters dug now.

And I finally planted the three irises from Ivan. They should be happy there with their rhizomes in the sun - hope the slugs steer clear of them; I should clear all that junk behind really but I want to get on with digging and sowing now.

Iris plants

We got up early and walked up the plot both mornings to open the polytunnel door and then sit in the sun for a while before going home and returning for a few hours working in the afternoons.
This is Jamie's photo of our little Robbie. He's feeding his mate now - she's very demanding but sometimes he's too slow and she has to retrieve her own worms. Well, they have to be quick otherwise Mr B (the blackbird, obviously) or the magpies will gobble the lot down too quickly.

Robin - Robbie

 Robbie tried that method but wasn't so successful!

We were sorry to find this broken birds egg - and it seems to be a song thrush. What a great shame that is. We have seen evidence of thrushes in the form of broken snail shells, so they're a most welcome visitor.

Broken egg - song thrush

We've picked, probably the last, of the purple sprouting brocolli as you can see it's beginning to flower now. That one plant has served us well. Hoping to get more than one plant producing for us this year.

Purple Sprouting Brocolli

On the way back home on Sunday morning we popped into the Food Festival being held on the Croft Field, a very pretty area in Hungerford near the church and the canal.

Hungerford Food Festival
There were some nice stalls selling food and plants. We resisted the urge to buy any plants but Jamie wanted some Chilli oil so we came home with this little bundle (but no chilli oil!).

From Hungerford Food Festival
Jamie's planted up our strawberry planter. Three layers with 9 plants. It seems a bit too heavy to hang from the polytunnel frame this year. We really need to clear the strawberry bed where these runners were taken from.

We're expecting some rain this week but the weather is meant to cheer up for Easter's 4-day weekend - hooray! And a 4-day weekend means two 4-day working weeks - hooray! Hooray! Or as the title song by Naughty By Nature - Hip Hop Hooray 😏