Sunday, 31 May 2015

A Frenzy of Activity

We had a lovely bout of rain this morning and it made the ground good to dig. The last quarter of Plot 7 is now dug and the beanpoles are erected over a trench filled with mushroom compost. 11 Scarlet Empire runner beans have germinated, we're hoping they'll be joined by one more!
This is a small video of our friend Malcolm's compost bin - the ants have an amazing nest in there! Hope they stay on his plot and keep away from our strawberries. We have our own ants - they tend to be red!
These are our year 3 strawberries.
And this lovely little bunch is on our year-old plants. We're hoping we get to eat that big one very soon.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Digging, Earthing, Feeding, Living!

Aah, a few days off work are always welcome and particularly at this time of year. The bird life is amazing around the site at the moment. The kestrel nest is situated near to plot 3 and there was a huge commotion there the other day when magpies were trying to get at it. The kestrel parents were not happy! And today the kestrel and a heron were having a fight! I wouldn't have thought a heron would be interested in a kestrel nest, but that's what seemed to be the problem. The swallows and martens swoop overhead and they too have fights with the naughty magpies. And the crows argue and chase the kites away - it's all action!
We had all day to work on the plots, with a break at lunchtime when we went home for a rest.
We got a lot done. We're pleased with how the digging is going on Plot 3, away from the hedge roots it's much easier. So we should be able to get the pumpkins and squash in the ground fairly soon.
We earthed up and added potato fertiliser to each row of spuds and to the two potato bags. We fed all the strawberry plants with Tomorite and sprinkled a bit of vegetable fertiliser around the broad bean plants which have quite a few flowers which the bees are working well, so I hope the beans aren't too far off.
Lots of the recently sown seeds have germinated but no sign of any leeks yet, I think they're always quite slow to appear.

This is the only flower in our wildflower bed, currently surrounded by seedlings. Actually I think it's a weed, not something I sowed, but it's rather pretty, so it gets to live :-)
These are our chilli (which is going to be too hot for me to enjoy) and sweet pepper plants. Now housed in the greenhouse.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Too Busy for Photos?

What a busy weekend on the plot! We managed to get a lot done as there was no rain all weekend and, although warm, the cloudy sky meant that the sun didn't bake us and make it too hard to work.
In fact, I was so busy today I didn't get a chance to take many photos - just this cinnabar moth. They are so pretty and their caterpillars don't eat veggies so are welcome on the plot.
I sowed the following, while Jamie dug Plot3:
  • Coriander - direct into the ground, near the carrots.
  • Big Smile sun flowers - big flower, short stem. These looked good in pots last year. They're in small pots in the greenhouse at the moment.
  • Calendula Sherbet Fizz - sowed them into modules for transplanting all over the place.
  • Mantanghong Chinese Radish - forgot we had these exciting things. I sowed direct into the ground but covered with mesh to offer some protection (though pollen beetles normally cause the most damage to these types of crop).
I also potted on the Cornells Bush Delicata squash and Defender courgettes which were in tiny pots.
Plot 3 is still turning out a lot of weed and roots but Jamie dug a good area where we should be able to plant a pumpkin quite soon. We have a few coming on nicely in the greenhouse.

Our chilli, bell pepper and tomato plants are surviving at home for the timebeing. Hopefully in June we'll take them up to their final home in the greenhouse..
Oh! And, all 12 florence fennel were still standing - just one dead slug!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Loving Life on the Allotment

Two sessions on the plot today as it was so warm and pleasant. In the morning there were lots of plotholders on site tending, planting and sowing which is so good to see. The worked plots on site are looking great at this time of year.
I made a pretty salad at lunchtime from the radish and salad leaf that I had to move in the raised bed. It may be small but it was a hot little plateful with chives and par-cel for extra flavour.

We got a lot done on the second warm, dry day of this bank holiday weekend. Jamie mowed and we trimmed the edges of the grass paths in an attempt to keep the slugs at bay.
Rhubarb is doing rather well this year
I planted out 12 of my fennel (florence - bulb) seedlings - really hope there are still 12 when we go up tomorrow. I added some slug pellets and mesh to stop the birds eating the pellets (or the disgusting remains of poisoned slugs). I have a second lot of seedlings which don't have their second leaves yet, so they can go out in a few weeks time.
Florence fennel in the raised bed
I potted on the French marigolds and the Russian Giant sunflowers. The marigolds will go all over the place as they're so bright and pretty. They're also going alongside our sprouts as they are meant to deter whitefly.

They'd probably be ok going in the ground, but we haven't sorted out where they're going yet, so we're hardening the sunflowers off outside along with the leek seeds and sprout seeds which won't appreciate the heat in the greenhouse.

The courgette and squash really want out too, but they're heading to have a little more waiting to do.
The wild flowers, radish, stocks and Silverskin onions that we sowed last week are up! And 3 little gherkins have germinated - hope the slugs leave this second sowing alone...
The Tenerife potatoes in the bags and the ground are looking ok (well, the foliage is). We're not sure if there may be a frost later this week, so we're holding off earthing up until we know.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Not All Weeds are Weedy

This one certainly isn't - Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). It's an interesting plant which has been around since prehistoric times and will likely be around on Plot 3 (our new one) forever! It grows through spores from cone-like tips, earlier in the season, and through its creeping roots (rhizomes) now.
You can see that the blue-black stem looks dead but left in the ground a shoot will soon appear ...
...followed by green growth. The resultant fairy forests really are very pretty, but not in the middle of our vegetable plot. The weed has ~2m deep roots and pulls nutrients from deep down in the earth, so doesn't actually cause a whole lot of problems to other plant growth ( this space).
The 'leaves' break into sections. These leaves are silica-rich and can be used for strenghthening your nails and hair and stopping bleeding. All this information may be tested at some point...though probably not through ingestion (at least not by me!). More likely It's used in Japan for polishing wood and metal - I did use it once to polish stainless steel - but I think the vinegar and bicarb were doing most of the work!
We got about 2 bags of weed and roots out of that area and then dug a couple of barrows of manure in. That should encourage the worms to do their bit and then we're going to plant some broad beans on that part of the plot.
We found a lot of these tubers - they look rather like oca. I think they belong to a weed, but not sure what sort. It looks like forget-me-not but I don't remember the roots looking like that.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fresco Como una Lechuga!

(Corrections are expected and appreciated!!)
Este blogpost es para mis amigos de curso de español. Hablo siempre de mi huerta tan aqui lo es! 
Eses nosotros dos huertas; de 125m2 en total
Hace el sitio en Hungerford desde 2009. Jamie, mi pareja, y yo hemos cultivido vegetales aqui desde el principio. Hay mas que 100 otras jardineros al sitio.
El Marsh Lane Sitio

Este año hemos comenzado una huerta nueva - otros 50m2. Es muy dificil cavar.
Huerta Numero 3
Aqui cultivamos nuestra ajo y ensalada.
Estan las patatas de Tenerife. Le parece frio si hace mal tiempo! Son mas pico que los otras patatas.
Papas arrugadas
Estoy esperando este año cultivamos muchas vegetales y podamos hablar de las! Cebollas, tomates, ajos, habas verdes, pepinos y calabacíns. Delicioso!

Si teneis suerte habéis unas fresas pronto!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Signs of Things to Come

So after catching the sun yesterday (naughty - I didn't put any suncream on) I was quite relieved that it wasn't so sunny today (that isn't something anyone would normally hear me say, but I've got transplant clinic on Wednesday!!). We had a lovely few hours on the site this afternoon and enjoyed chatting to other plotholders.

We sowed some wild flowers at the back of Plot 8 and Jamie sowed night stocks at the front, by the bench, so hopefully we'll have some warm fragrant evenings on the plot this year! Maybe eating strawberries - look at that little beauty! (PLEASE don't let there be another frost!!)
Not so busy today. Though I did plant out a few asparagus pea plants - along the front of the plot as the flowers are so pretty and they need to be accessible to get all those delicious pods picked when they're still small and tasty.
Also, rainbow chard (a couple of plants of each colour: yellow, pink, orange & red) which are the other side of the same quarter, again for easy access as I like chard raw in salads so eat it regularly. And it looks really stunning if the sun catches it right.
The remaining seedlings I've potted on as replacements if the planted plants disappear or as spares for fellow plotholders if they want them... They're looking a little sad immediately after transplanting but they should cheer up in a couple of days.
This is our Tiger Nuts pot - known as Chufa in Spain. They make a lovely drink called Horchata which I really enjoyed in Tenerife. Hopefully in the late Autumn we'll get some chufa and be able to make our own... The grass-like plant has to be kept wet, hence the green trug-thing...with the escape route for the insects which are always drawn to water then drown in it! I saw a frog today too so perhaps he'll fancy a dip.
Our rhubarb is still going strong, giving us plenty of stalks whenever we want it - these raspberry red plants are definitely worth growing as the rhubarb stays red after cooking.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sow Far Sow Good

We didn't expect it to be so hot today but it was lovely and mostly sunny. A great day for getting a lot of our seeds sown...Here goes...
Scarlet Empire runner beans, Oarsman leeks and Revenge sprouts in modules.
Best of All swede direct into the ground.
Albion Parsnips and 3 varieties of carrot (Purple Sun, Eskimo & Primo) direct into the ground. The parsnips have bottle cloches for protection and, as usual, are sown 3 per station - we'll only keep the best seedlings. The carrots are in 2 rows under enviromesh.
American cress (like watercress, but doesn't need running water (apparently)) into a pot, which will stay behind the greenhouse, as it likes a bit of shade.
Some Empress of India Nasturtium  and Radish Rats Tails in an empty spot near the compost bins.
Paris Silverskin onions in the raised bed with the beets. And, the beets I planted out last week are Cylindria, not Boltardy as I've been thinking!
Tenerife spuds
Here's a timelapse of part of our day ...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Wrap Up Warm

Tonight it would seem we're going to get a frost. The sky is completely clear and it does feel a bit nippy, so, better to be safe than sorry...
That's our potatoes completely earthed up. The little Tenerife ones have an additional fleece covering - we could hear them shivering already :-{
We had some more fleece so covered the strawberry plants which have the most flowers. The other plants may get frosted, but it's only the flowers that will be affected at this stage.
Aw, and my poor little lettuces - not sure that this cloche will help. But surely it won't be a harsh frost...
Hopefully the seedlings in the greenhouse will be ok...


Saturday, 9 May 2015

Know Your Enemies

I got screeched at by a couple of jackdaws! They weren't happy when I stopped them jumping along behind the frog which was trying to hop away in the long grass - poor froggy was only a little fella. Anyway, he got away safe. I wish the jackdaws would concentrate on slugs and snails, not the good guys!
We did a lot of weeding, tidying and feeding today - our strawberries have had a bit of tomato feed and are now netted as tiny strawberries are just beginning to develop.
This is the site after it's been tidied
Jamie completely dug and weeded the quarter where our parsnips and carrots are going - alongside our onions. I planted my purple-podded mangetout outside. I'm growing them up an obelisk. They're well-protected at present otherwise the pigeons wouldn't be able to resist. I don't intend to leave the bottle cloches on once they've got a bit bigger. I've planted all 11 plants, so the obelisk may get a bit overcrowded if they all survive. I'm hoping I'll be able to get at the pods...I'm guessing the flowers grow on the outside facing the sun so that's where I'm hoping the pods will end up!
I also planted out some of the Little Gem and Tom Thumb lettuce outside. I'm not protecting them as we have plenty, but may have to take action if pigeons, pheasants or slugs step up...
All the Boltardy beetroot are planted out now too - this is a part of allotment life that I love; filling in the gaps with tiny plants and watching them grow into food - hopefully mostly for me and Jamie! They're under cover, but only because they're going to share the small raised bed with Silverskin onions, which should be sowed soon.
Our Tenerife spuds are emerging in the bags! Not showing enough for a photo yet, but tell-tale humps in the soil. They obviously prefer the warmth of the bags more than in the ground at the moment.
And here are our bell pepper and chilli pepper. They've grown a lot since we bought them in Wilko a few weeks ago. They're staying at home for the timebeing...

Friday, 8 May 2015

Rhubarb Rhubarb!

Don't worry, I'm not talking about the bloomin' election media! I've had quite enough of that! But here are our two huge rhubarb plants providing us with our first food from the allotment this year (not counting salad and herbs).
I 'lomo-ish'ed the photo in Picasa
The slugs and snails have discovered our greenhouse. A snail nibbled three of the gherkin seedlings - he got winged over the hedge! I'll be re-sowing the remaining seeds soon.
Adding slug pellets too late
As you can see, I'm not risking my lovely little Florence fennel seedlings and have put slug pellets in the trays.
I also put slug pellets in the raised bed around the salad crops yesterday because I saw a few leaves had been eaten. Today I found about 10 dead slugs and snails :-( Not nice. At least they're leaving some seedlings alone at the moment...these are Cornells Bush Delicata squash
and beets.
The beetroot really ought to be planted out this weekend, but I'll transplant the squashes into larger pots and let them grow on in the greenhouse for a while yet.

We cut the grass and cleared some of the edges as that's where the slugs and snails love to hide - that is the trouble with having grassed paths, although they do look good.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Ooh! The Pain!

Ah, I needed that bath! After about 6 hours on the allotment - on the new plot. Phew, digging is hard work again! I'd like to show an 'After' shot but it's so insignificant you'd barely notice the difference! So, here's a picture of the one and only flower on the plot - a calendula left over from last year. It shines out like a beacon. Jamie transplanted it from the edge on Saturday.
Of course, when I say 6 hours on the allotment - the digging didn't quite fill that time. We had the good idea of taking wine and olives to have lunch on the little table and chairs that were left by the previous tenant. It was a great idea - but didn't make the digging any easier..!

We've just about finished digging the first 1/2 metre in from the path; so much couch grass! So much tree/hedge root! So much work! Lucky it's Jamie's plot ;-)
Nice to see the site from a different perspective
I have a panorama photo Google app on my iPad, so I took that to the site and made a 360° panorama of Plot 7/8 which you can see if you click here.
I then made another of the whole site  which captures a few of the plotholders too
I should have taken photos into the sky a bit so that it wouldn't have this curved letterbox look.. I still rather like them.

The garlic is growing well on Plot 8. It was looking a little yellow, so I watered it with Epsom Salts yesterday - the salts add magnesium to the soil which allows the plants to take in the nutrients they need and improves photosynthesis (so the leaves should 'green up' a bit).
These are my transplanted lettuces from yesterday. I was pleased the ones outside the wire survived the night, I thought the pigeons or other birds may find them too irresistible.