Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hmmm, 400th Post...

It's a milestone, so allow me a little time to reminisce...
Our lovely Marsh Lane site opened in April 2009 and I wanted to record our allotment progress. I much prefer electronic records for ease of searching so posted updates on our personal website - but after 2-and-a-bit years I found it too annoying to update and needed an alternative and discovered blogging!
Day 1 of the site

I opted for Blogger, can't remember why, but it's free and offered Picasa for photo storage so suits my needs. My first post was on 12th June 2011 - what a dull post that was...Not even one photo!
Moving swiftly on...

Blogger offers stats, I'm not sure how accurate they are because of robots but I find it quite interesting. These are apparently my top 3 posts ...
  1. Fungus Gnats! Well, I'm assuming the title is an oft-searched phrase (523 hits!), not all that catchy or interesting though to be honest.
  2. Salad, Garlic and Compost. That wasn't a recipe suggestion! It has a nice photo, so maybe that's why it got 184 hits.
  3. French Bean Chutney. Well, that is a recipe and a lovely one so I can see the appeal there for 158 visits.
Well, that's enough of that, back to today...
It was a very windy day, with quite a lot of rain. It wasn't a day for spending much time at the allotment but we did what we intended to do, we got this year's nematodes on the go.
Now, as you know, we don't like killing things, but these slugs are taking liberties! So, nemaslugs strike again - in our potato plot, our carrot plot and in the raised bed where my fennel and salad are going.
(as long as you don't consider slugs as wildlife...)
They needed to be well watered in and they got that! The ground temperature needs to stay above 5° otherwise the nematodes will die so hopefully this is timed right  - not that they'd keep in the fridge any longer anyway.
And now it's British Summer Time! 
Hooray, lighter evenings so we can go to the plot after work!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Onions R Us!

Today we planted our onion sets. We don't want many, as we don't usually store them. However, by the time we'd lined up the four rows, with about 8 inches between the rows and 6 inches between the onions we found we'd planted 44! That's quite a lot of onions to get through. I think there will be a lot of soup-making this year!!
Hopefully we'll be able to do a bit of storing this year, in the big cloche. The onions are meant to be mildew resistant F1 Hylander, from Thompson & Morgan. We covered the rows with the netting, just to stop the birds from pulling the sets out of the ground before they root. The birds think the brown onion skin tops are worms and always scatter them about.

The spring onions have sprouted now, along with the other salad crops I sowed. No sign of the broad beans yet. But another row of garlic has appeared - that makes 5 rows!! Hmmm, where's that onion and garlic soup recipe?!

Here are all our potatoes chitting - look at the little Canarian black ones in the middle. Not very black, but they're very small! We chopped one in half and it has lovely yellowy flesh. Hope we get a good warm spring/summer so that these survive and re-produce!

Friday, 20 March 2015

A Smile over the Allotment

We got up the plot at about 8am to set up the cameras and wait for the eclipse, which was due to start at 8:25 with the maximum coverage (about 87% for us) about an hour later. It was cloudy...and although very pleasant - listening to the birds, drinking coffee and eating hot cross buns - we did actually want to see some celestial activity!

Then, the clouds thinned and there it was! Very exciting! That was at about 9:20.
The clouds continued to get in the way, but were thin enough that we could see the shining crescent and a lot of the time we didn't need our eclipse glasses - this is at maximum coverage.
It definitely went significantly colder and dimmer. The birds went quiet and we saw more sitting in the trees so presumably they were roosting. A great experience!
From then on, the clouds thinned until it turned into a glorious sunny morning. For the next hour we kept our special eclipse viewing glasses on hand to watch the moon's shadow slowly move away from the sun.
We walked home feeling very pleased to have seen such a good show! And found our onion sets have been delivered! Then, later on, our Tenerife potatoes were delivered! What an excellent Spring equinox!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Wanting Some Rain

We want rain for our broad beans and a few salad seeds that we sowed two weeks ago. No sign of the broad beans yet, but the radish and salad leaf are coming up. Hopefully the perspex will protect them from nibbles - until they're ready for me!
Here's the garlic - growing nicely under the netting as something (probably a pheasant) had nibbled a couple of the shoots last week.
The funny thing is that there are four rows of garlic now.... Obviously the T&M garlic was just rather slow compared to the Wilko garlic. We're going to have a LOT of garlic this year!!
This is the rhubarb - both plants are showing signs of what's to come - yum yum!
And this is our spuds, chitting under the grow lamp in the hallway. We were obviously a bit late, many of the spuds were sold out last weekend, so we didn't manage to get Anya which we wanted. So, we bought Kestrel (of course) and Rosabelle.
We also have some Tenerife black potatoes on order. Not sure how they're going to manage in our climate, but we'll see...

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Gotta Love Fire

What a fabulous afternoon yesterday! 15° and blue sky all the way - really Spring-like.
And, what fun, we had a fire to get rid of all the rotten wood, bamboo canes and clippings that we don't want to put in the compost bin. Who needs an excuse for a fire?!
We used the HAHA shared incinerator to keep it under control as the wind blew up a few times. The sage and rosemary clippings meant the smoke smelled lovely though!
We also spent some time making up a raised bed for our silverskin onions and, probably beetroots. We mixed some manure with the compost from last year's sunflower pots, so maybe we'll have sunflowers in that raised bed too...!
I filmed a timelapse on my phone, unfortunately the wire I used to attach it to the pole managed to cut right across the lens - tut! But I still quite like the video of us riddling, sieving, mixing and having tea breaks :-)
I showed a newcomer round the site and she's now a tenant of one of the larger plots; on such a beautiful day, I'm not surprised she was so taken with the site and wants to start growing straightaway!
The site was the busiest it's been in months, with cars even having to park on the grass - this is the start of the fun times...
It's a grey day out of the window this morning, so we're off to Charlton Park Garden Centre to buy some spuds...

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Chain Mail Article (March-June 2015 edition)

It's tricky writing these articles about 2 months in advance, especially in February thinking about the lovely months of March to June. So I opted for a hints and tips article and a bit of encouragement for any newcomers to the site. I'm pleased to say we've had at least three people added to the waiting list as a result of them reading Chain, so I'll carry on doing the articles.
We're still in need of new plotholders as we have empty plots and no waiting list to speak of. Hopefully now that Gardener's World is back on TV we'll get a few more sign-ups. And the weather is cheering up which is also a nudge for people to get outside and do something - let's hope so!

And here's a photo of a fossil we found on our plot ages ago, because every blog post needs a pic :-)

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Work Day #1 2015

This picture sums up our work day yesterday!
It's a shame it got so wet as I didn't manage to get a photo of all the lovely volunteers standing round chatting and eating at one of the tea breaks. We had some fabulous home-made sweet and savoury snacks and guess who took the bottle of Tenerife Honey Rum (Ron Miel) along?!
We did lots of tidying and hedge-cutting and left the site very wet, tired and dirty! 
HahaWell done all, thanks for helping keep our site looking lovely!

A Bit of Sowing!

A couple of days off work and too slow to get to Oxford for our intended anniversary meal meant, well, guess what we did!
The weather recently has literally flipped daily between grey and sunny, so we had a mostly grey day yesterday but a sunny one today.
We sowed two rows of broad beans today. We used a bulb planter and replaced the earth with seed compost.
Then covered them with bottle cloches. This has previously helped against mouse damage but one they've grown a bit we're going to surround with mesh to (hopefully) protect from the pheasants on site.
I risked sowing short rows of salad leaf, spring onions and radishes in the raised bed. I hope the Perspex surround I put up will offer some protection and extra warmth. Though it did get down to -2° last night.
Oh yes! And the rest of the garlic is up - pretty sure it's the bulbs I bought from Wilkinsons, not the ones I originally planted from the Garden Centre..

I dramatically trimmed back the sage and did a bit of weeding... Nearly March! Yay! Soon we'll risk putting our 'big cloche' up!