Saturday, 30 March 2013

Know your Onions

Our onions were delivered today! A bag of Santero F1 from Thompson & Morgan. So this afternoon we planted them up. They were very successful last year and are mildew resistant which is a good thing as our onions have suffered badly from that in previous years. This picture is planning where to plant them  - they're planted so only a tiny growing tip is above the ground.
We planted two rows of 16 - even that is too many for us really. We still have half a bag left - we're bound to find someone who wants them. We covered them with netting - only to protect them from the blackbirds (and pigeons) who will pull them out of the ground continuously if they're not protected.
Our alliums quarter is the busiest part of our plots at the moment - with shallots, onions and garlic in now.
We've also changed our site plan. We're going to put the carrots and parsnips in that quarter instead of with the beans. That was our intention for our crop rotation plan but we got out of synch last year. I'll update the plan in the next couple of days.

We left site just as it went black and started sleeting!

Friday, 29 March 2013

A very Good Friday!

I know! It looks like a fake! This is actual blue sky over the allotment today! It was quite unexpected but so welcome.
We managed about 4 hours of digging, chatting, digging, burning, digging and chatting. So nice to see our fellow allotment holders.
We managed to burn the waste that's been waiting on Plot 8 for months. Unfortunately the rusted bottom of the HAHA incinerator disintegrated during the process but we got a good fire going and Kerry joined in the pyromania with her dried waste too :-)

The ash from the fire was mixed into the area where we're sowing wildflowers and night stocks this year.

Jamie dug over this year's potato quarter and mixed in some of the 6X fertiliser. The potatoes won't be going in just yet but at least the plot is completely ready for them now.
All the while we were digging we could hear the contestants in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race going by on the Kennet and Avon Canal. I spied through the hedge for a time and managed to get this shot. I bet the canoeists were happy that it wasn't quite so cold today, but I'm not surprised they needed the big gloves!
We went home achey but happy that we left the plot looking worked, if not really growing yet!
I actually spotted a different insect on the plot today so will be updating the wildlife blog, once I've identified this beastie with the help of the Wildaboutbritain forum ...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

So c-c-c-cold!

It had been trying to snow all day but just a bit of dandruff falling so we decided to have a couple of hours on the plot. Extremely cold with a shocking wind but not unbearable while we were busy. It stayed at about 1° and a few other plotholders were working on their plots too. Normally we wouldn't expect to see many people on site on a day like today, but everyone's so desperate to get something done whenever it's not precipitating!

We took some Freeze-Dried Mealworms for the robin. Poor little chap out in the cold :-( He very nearly ate from my hand today, but instead sat on the fencepost within a foot of me.
We decided to work on the raised bed. We hoed all the moss from it and then mixed in a little 6X natural fertiliser.
Next, we raked in a good layer of multi-purpose compost mixed with Topsoil and topped it off with Topsoil. That should keep our salad crops and beetroot happy!
Before leaving, we covered it with weed suppressant which may help warm the soil a little too - we're hoping to be able to get some sowing done over Easter...
Remembered to check the grape hyacinths. They haven't grown much since 9th March - not too surprising really.
Then back home to our lovely warm flat - only to discover I'd left the flask somewhere on site so we had to venture back out into the cold to retrieve it - Doh!!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Signs of Leaf!

It snowed for a few hours this morning but had all melted by the afternoon so we walked up to the allotment. It was very cold - just 3° and felt colder in the wind.

Keeping an eye on our garlic
Not surprisingly, there wasn't much happening! It's so very wet :-(
Jamie uncovered the rhubarb again - the birds are continuously burying it while they dig about around it - it's only very small, but there is a leaf on it now!
Leaves have also emerged from the buds on the raspberries, so there is life on the plot - you just need to look a bit harder for it at the moment!
We left after not too long, but I forgot to check how our grape hyacinths are doing - I guess they can't have been too impressive otherwise I would have spotted them!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Oh no! More snow!

We woke up late this morning and were amazed to see a couple of inches of snow covering Hungerford!
Despite the title (and the fact it stops us digging) I do still like the white stuff so we took a stroll up to the allotment. It had rained much of yesterday, in between bright sunshine, and the site was very soggy.
The temperature was 5° while we were there and the minimum had been -3°.
Netting was sagging all round the site and we had to clear the snow from our shallots and broad bean nets to stop them tearing.
Whilst looking at our photos later we noticed that the portaloo had been delivered! We didn't notice it while we were on site!! HAHA are renting it for a few months prior to investigating the possibility of a more permanent solution....
We didn't stay long - the snow had turned to rain and I felt a bit grotty (so wouldn't have got any work done even if it hadn't snowed). Jamie left some sunflower seeds for the robin and we returned home rather wet!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Return to Grey

It has been very grey and wet since our lovely day on Tuesday - there had been 17mm of rainfall and temperature has gone from 13° to a low of 2° and it was 6° while we were at the site today. However, it's from tomorrow that it's going to get really cold again - apparently...

We were pleased to see our grape hyacinths (free bulbs planted on 13th Jan) have started flowering, so they should provide a bit of colour on the plot quite soon.
This is the photo I forgot to take last week - our path between strawberry plot and tomato pots area.
We weren't actually working our plot today. We had to do some HAHA (Hungerford Allotment Holders Association) stuff. There are a few empty plots on site which the committee (and other volunteers) are going to rotavate after some glyphosphate weed killer is applied.

Personally, we (Jamie and me) are not keen on rotavating; it kills worms and can encourage certain weeds to propagate. Having said that, some of the plots are in a bad state and we aren't convinced that a new plotholder would get very far with them without some assistance. Particularly as, at present, we're still not able to say that we've got the site beyond next April... still awaiting agreement between Hungerford Town Council and the Landlord - REALLY WISH THEY'D SORT IT!!
As an aside, after our recent failed star-gazing session, there's a chance to see the Pan-STARRS comet this weekend- with the naked eye. Got to be worth a look if the weather plays ball... I remember Halley's Comet 15 years ago and it was interesting to see an unusual object when you're so used to seeing the stars that are always there!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Has Spring Sprung?

It certainly felt like it today! And, luckily, the lovely weather was predicted so I'd booked the afternoon off! It was about 13° in the shade with a low of -2° overnight.
Before leaving work I went to a photography talk, so I attempted to put some of the tips ("how to turn a snap into a photograph") into practise... Bear with me :-)
Attempting to use the Rule of Thirds - missing the mark I think
We prepared the area where the tomatoes are going this year. We cleared all the weeds and stones from an area on Plot 8B that hadn't been dug very well and then tramped it down and covered it in weed suppressant. We're having 3 Lizzano tomato plants in pots - the same as we had last year, as they proved to be so blight resistant, but with plenty more space this year.
I was chatting so forgot to take an "after" photo. We made a wood chipping path between that area and the strawberry bed and it looked very tidy(!) however, we think Mrs Blackbird will have a field day flicking the wood chippings all over the place! The chippings are dropped off by a local tree surgeon and someone always finds a use for them.
Pleased to see (most of) the raspberries are budding well. Yes, this is another photo trial. This was using Portrait mode on the camera rather than using auto - not too convinced it makes a whole lot of difference on this particular photo, so need to practise that a bit more.
Now, this I was very pleased with. Zoomed in and using portrait mode of the robin did make for a lovely photo.. And they are so photogenic.
Robbie eating sunflower hearts we took to the plot for him
By 5pm the sun had disappeared behind clouds (cirrocumulus I think) and it was beginning to get a bit chilly so we headed home. Just time for one Landscape photo...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Digging, clearing and some planting!

We had a brilliant few hours on the plot this afternoon. We got our shallots into the ground - fifteen Golden Gourmet should provide enough shallots for some pickles and cooking with.
We stapled (LOVE our staple gun!) netting onto the frame Jamie made the other week and put that over the top. The shallots don't really need that much protection but it keeps the birds (and mice) from pulling the shallots out of the ground and later will provide some protection against the leek moth.
The rest of the afternoon I spent digging the area behind the raised bed. The raspberries are sending shoots and roots out so that seems like a good sign that they're spreading happily. This area will be used for our little greenhouse for germinating seeds and then, once the greenhouse is packed away, we'll be putting some pretty wildflowers and night stocks in.

Jamie cleared a layer of moss and compost from the raised bed - we're going to give it a top up before sowing our beets and radishes this year. Then Jamie cleared all the annoying grass and weeds from near our strawberries and rhubarb. The birds keep burying our rhubarb whilst flicking around for worms and grubs.
Talking of birds, I've put an entry and video on the Wildlife on Our Allotment blog regarding the robins today. Our new regular, the female blackbird, was also on the scene - very pleased to eat giant worms we uncovered during our digging and clearing.

We took some small leeks home - enough to go in the creamy mushroom and leek pie that I'm looking forward to tonight!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Planning (Part Two) and Potatoes

Another very cold day, no rain though! We didn't get a chance to go to the plot but went to collect our shallots from my Mum's for planting tomorrow.
We spent some time looking through our seeds and doing some more planning. I've updated the plan for Plot 7 - it's changed a bit since the plan in February.
We've also worked out a rough plan for Plot 8B, which is the plot we took over last year and didn't fully use. This year it will hopefully look very full, as we plan to put quite a few sweetcorn on there, with jack-o-lantern pumpkins growing around - well, fingers crossed!
We're not too sure that big empty space will be there, as I haven't measured the areas we need for the various crops but that's a rough plan...
While at my Mum's we checked on our spuds - chitting nicely in the cold, light room... There's been quite a lot of growth in the last three weeks. A couple of the Orla at the front were upside down, with white chits pointing the wrong way, so we flipped them - that should help :-}