Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Rotten Start to the Day

Of course, it was only rotten because it was an all-too-quick visit to the allotment before going to work! And what a beautiful morning it was; the birds were singing and there was no-one else around.
Look at that lovely blue sky!
I only nipped up to do a couple of things:
  1. Open the greenhouse: The temperature gets up to nearly 40° in the sunshine - just a bit too hot for our little seeds! Overnight the temperature was 2° outside and 3.4° in the greenhouse, so it doesn't make that much different but may prevent some damage if there is a bad frost maybe...
  2. Water the grass path that we sowed at the weekend.
  3. Give Robbie a few mealworms - he was there waiting for me on his usual fence post.
The radish seedlings are up - I just sowed a little row in front of our broad beans, which have quite a few flowers now. There are loads of bees and other flying insects around so hopefully we'll get some beans fairly soon.
And that was it, time for work :-(
Then a quick visit after work to seal the greenhouse from another cold night ahead...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

More Seed Sowing

We had a good afternoon on the plot even though the cold wind was horrible. The sun didn't shine but at least it stayed dry and there were loads of plotholders on site.

Jamie and I put up our little green house for germinating seeds. We've piled bricks all round it as it was trying to take off in the wind already. We've put perspex under the seed trays to help warm the ground underneath as that's where we'll be planting some flowers once the greenhouse is moved on. We're hoping the perspex will encourage weed growth so we can pull them before we put wildflowers in - otherwise we won't know what's what!
We sowed the grass path between the two newly aligned plots - hope somebody wants to lease them soon so they don't stay unloved too long!
I did the meet and greet of a new couple (welcome to Andrew & Gill). They arrived armed with tools and had planted a row of donated potatoes within a couple of hours of setting foot on site!

We left after we had sowed some beetroot (Moneta - monogerm variety), calendula (Daisy Mix) and french marigolds (Oranges and Lemons). They're all in the greenhouse.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Well, it is still April, what did we expect?!

We may have been thinking that it's been a slow year, but April is proving to be just as we'd expect - full of April showers.
Time to go!
Jamie was digging plot 8B yesterday and got caught in hail and snow showers and today we didn't do any better! In between there was some lovely sunshine but it felt chilly (8°) and the nights are still cold, 0° last night.
Our plants are enjoying the weather though. The onions have green shoots and the salad seeds sown last week have germinated.
We're really pleased with the rhubarb, this is the original Victoria which we were concerned about in February - it's certainly made up for it over the last couple of weeks; it seems to grow before our eyes!
Today we were doing HAHA work; changing a couple of empty plots and making a path between them. We'll seed the path tomorrow and then we can get back to our plots. We need to get our little greenhouse up so we can get some more seeds sown.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Other Side of the Hedge

It was such a lovely day that we walked up to the allotment after work - just to check that our new plantings/sowings weren't drying out too much. Well, they were rather, so we gave things a water and then walked back via the canal which was looking especially beautiful as the hedgerows are beginning to spring into life.
I took the above photo from the Kennet and Avon Canal side of the Marsh Lane Allotments' hedge. It's directly under 'our' Ash tree. We could hear our little robin but couldn't see him from this side of the hedge - he was probably still eating the worms we had taken up for him :-)
We forgot to put the St George's flag on our bean pole this year, so here's a photo of the flag flying on Hungerford's St Lawrence church.
Look at that lovely blue sky!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Blasted Wind!

A short opportunity to get to the plot today meant that we got a few more seeds sown - but the wind was howling so it wasn't lovely and warm like at the weekend. I think I managed to keep hold of the parsnip seed so they were sown where we wanted them rather than broadcast across the whole plot though :-)
'Tender and True' Parsnips

We've sown 3 seeds to each cloche, which is providing a little protection from wind and the additional warmth will hopefully aid germination. We only want one parsnip to grow from each 'station' so if more germinate we'll have to snip them off - which always seems a shame, but they'd be too close to grow properly if we left them.
We prefer to sow seeds this way, rather than sowing a whole row and then having to thin them out. Parsnips don't really appreciate being transplanted hence sowing direct into the ground (on a little seed compost).
Look how dry the earth looks! It really doesn't take long to dry out, but there is still moisture when you go a couple of centimetres down and it's looking like it may rain later on.

We also sowed our Oarsman leeks - two trays which we've protected from leek moth in their own little enviromesh cloche. The leek moth is rife on our allotment site so we're careful to protect these. The mesh is sealed all the way round as the caterpillars can crawl in under open sides - sneaky!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Aaah, Sunshine and Warmth!

What a fabulous day! We knew it was going too be sunny but didn't expect 18°! So welcome! It meant there were lots of plotholders and wildlife (bees and butterflies) on site - the most we've seen for months.

We really must learn to do straight lines!

We're so pleased that we managed to get our two rows of Kestrels (20 potatoes) planted.

We planted in trenches lined with shredded paper and grass clippings to aid water retention, with some manure and a little 6X fertiliser for good measure.

Marsh Lane soil separates the seed potatoes from the manure.

We got some seeds sown; a couple of trays of lettuce (Red Fire and Little Gem), which I'll plant out when they're big enough. They're under a plastic lid under the bench which will hopefully protect them from full sun and the cold nights - it was 0° last night so still too early for a lot of sowings.
We also sowed some Suttons broad beans, to follow on from our Aqua Dulce beans, which have definitely developed a couple of tiny flowers now. We've taken the enviromesh cover off the over-wintered beans and hopefully they'll get pollinated!
The newly sown Suttons are protected under bottle cloches. We've found in previous years that this can protect the newly-sprouted beans from mouse damage.
I also sowed a small row of Sparkler 3 radish because a fellow plotholder had some unwanted seeds. If they're ready at the same time as the lettuce that'll be perfect :-)
Another plotholder had left a tray of surplus lettuce seedlings (Butterhead) on the HAHA spares table so I planted a few of them out too - I've been missing my salad lunches for too long  :-) They look very feeble but they usually cheer up from looking like this.. let's hope so!!
So, at last we have a growing allotment this year!
Wildlife blog updated, but sadly no photos of the Brimstone or lovely peacock butterflies we saw.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Finding Treasure!

Jamie was at the plot for most of the day digging plot 8B and finding more huge chunks of concrete, which is why he's aching beside me right now. Not sure where the concrete is from. Possibly a result of the canal dredging which was apparently done in the 1970s or 80s. He found this 1886 penny coin, which although not particularly rare, is rather exciting and in good condition.
Queen Victoria
We did find an older coin on the site a couple of years ago  - it was another penny from 1797(!) with George III on it - such poor condition I couldn't get a photo of it though.

I joined Jamie in the afternoon but didn't do a lot of work, just a little digging but mostly socialising and taking pics. It's lovely to see that the hedge is now beginning to go green and these are blackthorn flowers - which will turn into sloes later in the year. Tiny little flowers.
Very pleased too to see that both our rhubarb plants are looking really healthy and have a substantial growth spurt over the last week - the April showers and sun have really done the trick!
Also, as expected the chives have all sprouted up. You can see it's separating already.
And, the garlic is looking happier with the added Growmore giving it a helping hand...
Lastly, the chives have gone a bit crazy over the last week and they've got flower buds - this is also a gratuitous picture of the grape hyacinths which keep getting a mention because they're such a pretty colour!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tomatoes Delivered

Slightly earlier than we hoped, our tomatoes have been delivered. We have opted for Lizzano F1 grafted plants. They did so well last year we thought we'd try them again. They'll be in pots so we just need to make sure they're well-watered - Mother Nature looked after that pretty well last year!
Jamie potted them up in young plant compost and topped with vermiculite. They'll probably have to survive in our flat for about a month before we dare take them up the plot though, so hope they don't get too straggly (our windowsill can get rather hot...)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Potatoes - A Row a Day...

We got to the allotment this afternoon. There had been some torrential showers in the morning so the ground was pretty wet. Look how much rain had fallen since we left the site yesterday - 5mm, that's quite a lot really!
It was quite warm but windy in the afternoon. We managed to get our second row of First Earlies in the ground. Another trench with a little 6X fertilizer sprinkled in, then well-rotted manure, then Marsh Lane earth so the spuds were added at a depth of about 10cm.
The next two rows will be Kestrels and they won't mind waiting a bit before they go in the ground.

Most of the grape hyacinths are actually opening up now - so pretty and, if you remember, we got these bulbs for free!
And, we were pleased to see that one (only one) of our shallots has green shoots - usually the rest follow on fairly swiftly. I'll get under the netting soon and free any which have their leaves trapped in the skin.
I sprinkled some GrowMore around the garlic and hoed it in. that should bring them on a bit - they don't seem to have changed much over the last month or so - I guess they're probably about 15cm tall at the moment.
I've updated the wildlife blog with some images of a pea leaf weevil we found beside a dead broad bean...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Potato Day - Rained Off

I collected the well-chitted spuds from my mum's. Some had great little chits (like this photo of  a kestrel) Quite alien looking isn't it?!
but some of the others had some crazy long chits, especially the Bonnies and Orlas.
Never mind, the plan was to get them all planted up today. You can see, however, from our printed plan below that it was a very wet day... I'll upload this plan to the Crop Rotation Plan page later - with an explanation of why it looks so involved!
We only got one line planted - a trench with well-rotted manure in the bottom. Then we sat in the car watching the rain and drinking a coffee and couldn't face doing another row - it would have been more tricky without the path alongside us and the ground was too wet really :-( Disappointing, not sure whether they'll get done till next week now as this weekend looks like it's going to be rained off completely. Boooo

Friday, 12 April 2013

April Showers Stopped Play

Jamie braved some very heavy showers this afternoon to dig some more of Plot 8B.
It's definitely feeling Spring-like today and so I thought a pic of Alison's daffodils was appropriate for this post. They're the first flowers growing on-site each year and are a very welcome sight as you enter the gate.
Here is an example of some of the nightmare stones we uncover on Marsh Lane! I think this is the one that made Jamie realise it was hometime! Well, I did say we hadn't dug plot 8 very well last year!!

I only popped up to meet Jamie after work. There had just been a really heavy shower and the birds were singing their little hearts out! (Turn your volume up, but sorry for the sound of Friday night traffic on the A4 in the background!)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Oops - sorry about the rhubarb!

The last few days of sunshine have meant that the grape hyacinths have opened up a little. They still have a way to go but I thought the photo was worth an entry in the blog - nice to have a bit of colour on the screen!
We owe someone an apology - the resigning plotholder did want their rhubarb! Sorry about that! It's all put right now though. They've got their rhubarb back and we went shopping to Yew Tree Garden Centre to fill the gap on our plot :-)

Raspberry Red rhubarb
Not quite as impressive as the rhubarb that was in there yesterday, but at least we know the variety of this one - Raspberry Red. Our other plant is a Victoria so it's good to know we are growing two different varieties.

I dug some manure into the area where the fennel will be going and Jamie filmed a bag full of green waste to take home to the green bin. We didn't stay much longer as I'd been fooled into thinking it was summer and didn't wear a coat - 10° is too chilly for me. It got down to -5° last night though so luckily most people are still holding off with sowing at the moment!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

HAHA Workday and Rhubarb

It was a HAHA workday today and we had fabulous weather for it! It reached 12° and the sun shone for most of the day - perfect!
There were enough of us in the workgroup that it didn't take us too long to clear empty plots of big stones, rubbish and other debris, so that the plots can be rotavated during the week.
We hope that a reasonable-looking plot will make the task less daunting for newcomers, particularly as we can only confirm their plot for a year at the moment - well, I know I wouldn't want to spend too many weeks/months preparing the way. Of course, we're still hoping we've got more time on the site!!

Once we'd got the bonfire burning well and had hot drinks and cakes with the other volunteers and plotholders we were ready to do some work on our own plot.
One of the benefits of helping out - we gained a healthy looking rhubarb plant which was unwanted on a plot! Hopefully it will survive the move. It's alongside our other little rhubarb plant.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Catching Robbie

A short afternoon on the plot today - it was windy but not too chilly (about 8°) and it had only got down to 0° last night. The sun didn't shine much - until we got home!

We dug some more of Plot 8b, but didn't get very far with it. In fact, most of the time I spent trying to get the robin to pose really close for a photo - not very successfully, so I resorted to using the zoom on my little camera instead!

I know this should be on my wildlife blog - but if I put any more pictures of robins on there I should rename it 'Robbie and Friends'!!

Jamie had read in Amateur Gardening magazine that grass cuttings make a good mulch for raspberries, so I have covered all the manure round ours with clippings which Ted produced from his mowing yesterday. The cuttings should just rot down and will keep the raspberry roots nice and wet.

Talking of fruit, our strawberries are still hiding in their holes in the weed suppressant, but there are signs of new life on each plant.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Organ Donation - Please Sign Up!

Five years ago today at 4:50am I got a telephone call from the Organ donation team at the Churchill Hospital. They had a kidney which may be suitable for me. This was the third time I'd received the call during my four years on haemodialysis.
Jamie and I got to the hospital as quickly as possible. I had an x-ray, a myriad of blood tests and various other tests to be sure that I would be healthy enough to receive the transplant.
I had a final dialysis session in the afternoon and then tried to sleep as the operation wasn't going to happen till later in the evening. I went down to the operating theatre at about 11pm. The next thing I remember was waking back in my room; full of tubes and exhausted. Only then did I know for sure that the transplant had gone ahead!

My kidney didn't start working straight away, so unfortunately that wasn't my final dialysis session. I was allowed home a week after the operation but had to return to the Churchill initially daily and then every couple of days.

In all the time I was ill, the 4 weeks after the operation was the worst time. Every visit to the Churchill involved a blood test; a wait for the result and then the massive disappointment when I saw that the results weren't good so I had to have another 4 hour dialysis session. Then I needed a blood transfusion - I was depressed as I felt I was worse off after the transplant.

However, after 4 weeks, the results began to improve a bit. I didn't need dialysis but did need to be careful with my diet and drink plenty - hard after being on restricted fluids for 4 years.

Within 3 months I was feeling reasonably normal and only visiting the hospital every weeks. I returned to work 4 months after my transplant. Within 6 months the appreciation of the transplant really kicked in. From then on I realised exactly how much better my life is without dialysis.

I continue to see my consultant every two/three months and my kidney function remains stable. I met someone at the hospital the other day who has had their kidney for 37 years, so I'm fully expecting mine to keep me going for a long time yet!

Thank you organ donors and the NHS - I know where I'd be without you!

Organ Donation Community


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Plot 8 - the backbreaker!

How lucky we've been with the weather so far during this week off work! It was blowing a bitterly cold North-Easterly wind but again there was some nice warming sunshine (7° while we were working).

We were digging Plot 8 - such hard work compared to Plot 7, which has now been dug and dug again for three years. Plot 8 hasn't had quite such loving care and attention!
Look at all those stones and a bucketful of weeds from just a small area. And that took us about two hours #groan

Peeped under the netting at the Aqua Dulce broad beans which were sowed at the end of October. They're looking pretty good and looking at this photo is that a sign of a flower bud in the background?? I don't think they're meant to be dwarf variety!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Readying for Runners

Another lovely few hours on the allotment today. It was mostly sunny, though the wind was chilly, so we needed to keep busy or at least sit in the sunshine! The temperature last night was -2° but finally reached double figures today 10° while we were on the plot - it's getting there, slowly...
The first thing we did was dig circular trenches for our runner bean wigwams.

We put 2 bags of mushroom compost in each trench. We have two types of runners this year: Scarlet Empire and a white-flowered variety which we were given by a fellow plotholder last year.

While Jamie dug over the rest of the bean quarter, I piled manure round the raspberry bushes as a healthy mulch. I covered the area where the fennel is going with black plastic to try to warm the ground a bit. Also managed to square off the dug area on Plot 8a, still a lot do be sorted on plot8b though...
Panorama of Plot 7 - Three Quarters ready...
Spotted this pheasant clearing up one of the empty plots near us - there's nothing for him on our plots at the moment. I've updated the wildlife blog too.