Sunday, 26 April 2015

Broad Bean Damage - The Culprit

I joined Jamie on the allotment in the afternoon and spent most of the time weeding and staring! I was particularly looking at our broad beans which have been nibbled all along the leaf tips, as usual. We've previously blamed ants, pigeons, pheasants, caterpillars, slugs,,,, But now I'm convinced it's caused by Bean Weevils.
The adult causes the leaf damage, which isn't too catastrophic on a reasonable specimen, but can be fatal for the plant if they start nibbling too much when it's small. Also, the bean weevil larvae damage the bean and roots which is why some of our seeds develop poorly and die before they've really got going :-(
Not a great pic, but I hope you can see it's stripes
This document has some good advice, so I hoed all around our plants so they look a bit happier and I gave them a shake to get rid of some of the weevils, but I don't see why they won't make their way back!
This is another of the critters that I thought may be to blame for the broad bean damage - Red Velvet Mites - there are a lot of these around at the moment. But these are actually a friend of the allotment holder. They eat other insects (hopefully weevils, but I'm not sure) and help with decomposition of organic matter.

I was looking round garden centres in the morning (managed to avoid the temptation to buy) while Jamie dug the last potato trench and planted the Tenerife potatoes - a row of 9 on top of manure, pine needles and shredded cardboard. The poor little spuds won't know what hit them - they've probably never been so cold! We had some lovely rain (the first in a couple of weeks) to water them in well in the evening.
We had a few left over so we've planted them in potato bags - two in each bag. We've never grown potatoes in bags before so we're interested in seeing how they'll do. The Rosabelles and Kestrels we planted two weeks ago have just popped out so hopefully they'll have a bit of growing time, with no frost, before we need to do the first earthing up.
I cut a flower stem from one of our rhubarb plants - lots of rhubarb around site has flowered - they are brilliant looking but we don't want ours to bolt and stop producing edible stems yet! I put a pot over the hollow stem where I chopped it off - I've been told that water can get in and rot the plant at the base. Not sure if that's true but it sounds reasonable.
I dissected the flower as they're so mutant-looking! The un-developed flowers are rather interesting up-close too.
Our seedlings are looking ok in the greenhouse with some of the other ones emerging. Still the greenhouse is proving extremely popular with flying insects - the place is literally buzzin' :-)
What do bees and flies talk about??

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

First Proper Harvest of the Year

Jamie dug through the patch where the carrots will go this year - with a hand trowel - the ants nest was in the corner of the plot... This is what it looks like when you disturb a red ants' nest!
Panicking to clear their eggs away
It was a fine but windy weekend so I enjoyed being in the greenhouse (I'm calling it that now) to get out of the rather chilly breeze. We need to open the vents each day because it gets so hot in there, but it doesn't make much difference to nighttime temperatures which have been down to minus figures (so, I don't think we'll be sleeping in there anytime soon!)
Nice window view
I got a lot of seeds sown over the two days:
  • Cornell's Bush Delicata squash
  • Defender Courgette
  • Russian Giant sunflowers
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Purple-podded peas (mangetout)
  • Asparagus Pea
The majority are sown into modules or pots with just the lettuce seeds and fennel sown into a tray at the moment. I've sown more than we want as hopefully there will be plenty for sharing and providing for events, etc. but have seeds left over in case they get frosted or slug-nibbled. (Say it quietly: the slugs haven't discovered the greenhouse yet)
Most of the seeds I sowed a couple of weeks ago have sprouted... no sign of celery yet though.
Florence Fennel - Rondo
Boltardy Beetroot

Lettuce - Tom Thumb and Little Gem
And, we harvested our first rhubarb of the year! This variety is Raspberry Red and it was delish, with plenty of sugar and custard - yum.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Welcome In!

Yesterday was officially a scorcher! And I booked it off as leave - perfect! So we spent several hours on the plot putting our giant cloche up - 3 metres by 2 metres looks bigger than it sounds.
Jamie has secured the corners with stakes so hopefully it will stay put! Here's a little timelapse of part of the setup (I really must remember to film in landscape mode). We had quite a few breaks because the temperature was above 25° and I even used our sun umbrella - look at that lovely blue sky.
We're not too sure what we're going to grow in the tunnel once the seedlings are planted out. Certainly gerkhins and maybe some peppers. Of course it'll also be a handy spot for a couple of chairs on a rainy day!
Look at the temperature in there - phew, we couldn't stay in there too long today.
It seems to attract bees and flies at the moment, maybe it smells funny because it's new. We zipped the door down overnight but left the vents open, so will see what we've captured when we go up after work. I think it could be a good spot for a moth hunt later in the year.
Exciting to have something new to think about. And we can really start sowing now!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Potatoes R In!

The light evenings and lovely weather over the last week have meant we could visit the plot a couple of times after work. We've taken broad beans with us to fill the gaps left by the sneaky mice. And now we've protected all round so that the pheasants don't clear up what the mice leave behind (like they did last year). So, it's a bit Fort Knox but broad beans are one of our allotment favourites so needs must!
The evening sun looked lovely as we were leaving the site on Thursday so I had to get a photo - wish I'd had my better camera with me.
Yesterday (Saturday) morning was raining so a perfect time for shredding all our old bills and other paperwork to use as water retention under the potatoes. 
On top of the paper we put a layer of grass clippings and then some rotted farmyard manure before the final layer of dirt and then the seed potato. The Kestrels also had a layer of Christmas tree needles - all this acidity should prevent scab... And the nematodes should prevent slug damage...
We haven't gone mad with potatoes this year, just 7 Kestrels and 6 Rosabelles across two short rows. Previous years we have found there are just too many so hopefully this will be plenty (along with our Tenerife potatoes, which aren't going in for a couple of weeks)
Oh, and we re-barked our paths on Plot 7 - someone had left a load of wood chippings at the main gate for general use. The plot is looking loved again!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Monday - A Lovely Sunshine Day

What an unexpectedly beautiful Easter Monday! We spent several hours out in the ~20° sunshine. The site was possibly the busiest I've ever seen it, with plotholders enjoying the lovely weather.

Jamie worked really hard clearing and digging the remainder of the plot where our brassicas are going this year. The last of the manure was Dug in along with some chicken manure pellets.
I was pleased to get the compost bins sorted and moved to their final position. I mixed all the compost together and managed to completely fill one bin, which can sit doing its thing for the next few months and we'll just put new waste into the black one for a while.
When we got to the plot there were butterflies all over the grape hyacinths: Commas, tortoiseshells, brimstones (the lovely yellow ones) and peacocks. So, I rushed home to get the wildlife camera and set it to do a timelapse video. As a result, we got 278 photos of this!
Not one visitor for the next hour - except me and Jamie sitting on the bench occasionally!
So, I moved the camera to another position on the plot and that provided over 1700 versions of this image!
I thought the clouds against the blue sky would have made for a nice timelapse, but the camera didn't pick them up - all rather unsuccessful!

Garlic also enjoying the heat
When we first got to the plot I counted 11 broad beans which had sprouted; when we left there were 16! I should have pointed the camera at them, or at the rhubarb!

I'm happy to have now sowed some seeds into trays and modules - protected under a netted cloche until the poly-cloche is up:
  • Beetroot (cylindrical type)
  • Florence Fennel
  • Little Gem lettuce
  • Cos lettuce
  • Celery

Friday, 3 April 2015

Life on a Bench and Beyond

It may be traditional for Good Friday, but still too early, this year, to plant spuds (in our opinion) so I was mainly fiddling about, turning the compost and taking photos during the couple of hours spent on the plot this afternoon. The weather was drizzly but not cold (13°).
This is our trusty bench, which is likely to be replaced this year as its falling apart, but it's supporting a lot of life and the tiny lichen and moss patches are very pretty in macro-mode!

I was going to look up the types of lichen, but it's a lot more complex than I expected! It'll take a bit longer than I currently have, but here's a good place to start!
We know the wasps like to skim the top layer of wood for their nests; we've watched them do it over the last couple of years - fascinating.
Our rhubarb has sprung into life and appears well on its way to being a monster again this year (fingers crossed!).
Look at those intricate leaves starting to unfurl.
Forming from what looks like an egg (Or maybe I've got Easter eggs on my mind!)

Some of the raspberry canes are at last showing that they're still alive and the strawberry plants are producing fresh new shoots.
The photo below was taken after the winds last Wednesday/Thursday. The protective acrylic over my salad seedlings was snapped in half by that flying netted cage, so I've attempted to cover them - otherwise they look just too tempting for passing pheasants!
The netted cage from the other end of our plot! Wish I'd been filming
Our bottle cloches also blew away (twice). We managed to recover most of them, but the broad beans which were left unprotected are at their tastiest right now (because they're just sprouting) and a mouse has enjoyed at least one of them... We'll fill the gaps with Express seeds when we get some more cloches made up.
It was the first day of the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race so canoeists were going past on the canal (beyond the hedge). Only another 100 miles to go!
And Hungerford had the flags out as it's one of the checkpoints, at about 25 miles from the start.