Sunday, 30 April 2017

Remind Me

The seedlings all survived their first night outside and even the beetroot had perked up a bit. The brassicas in the greenhouse have germinated. And look at the leeks unbending themselves, with their little spent-seed hats on!
We spent a blustery few hours on the plot this afternoon. Rain threatened but we still only had a few drops and the ground is very dry. Still all we have to eat from the plots is rhubarb, but not long now...
We mixed up some compost for the potato bags - a mix of multi-purpose, coconut coir and John Innes No.2: Orla, Chopin, Kestrel and Bergundy Red. One seed potato per bag, apart from two Chopin.
This post is mostly as a reminder for us and the title song is one I'd not heard before but I like it, it's by High Contrast.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Metal Guru

The fanciest thing on Plot 7 is its new number. Kindly made by plotholder, Alfie, sturdily-made from old horseshoes and other scrap metal. I know there will be a few more of these appearing around the site - he only asks for a £15 donation to the Heads Up charity, helping the Churchill Hospital fight head and neck cancer
We've visited the site after work every day last week to check the temperature and earth up any potatoes that peeped out of the ground. The coldest reading was -4.3°, by our thermometer in the greenhouse. That was the morning that the cars, roofs and fields were white with frost. A few flower seedlings got frosted, but it's the strawberries that suffered the biggest setback - look at those black eyes. They won't grow into fruits, but the plants will soon recover.
Every single strawberry flower outside looks like that. The strawberries in a tub in the greenhouse got away with it, so we may get a handful of early fruits.
We did some sowing and planting outside this afternoon! Parsnips Albion are sown on Plot3. The mangetout (Shiraz and Golden Sweet) seedlings are in the ground. The mangetout have some serious protection until they're a bit bigger - the pigeons would eat them all by tomorrow otherwise! 
The sweetpeas haven't got so much protection.... I'm hoping they aren't as tasty to pigeons :-{
I planted several chard seedlings out; some pink, red and yellow. Also planted about 30 Boltardy beetroot seedlings in a raised bed where the pak choi have germinated. Transplanted beetroot seedlings are always the saddest looking things, but usually they recover.
 So Alfie is our site's 'metal guru' and isn't he lucky? He gets a T-Rex song and a photo on my blog :-)

Sunday, 23 April 2017

This is England

Happy St. George's Day and another warm and reasonably sunny day.
We were mostly tidying and weeding. We erected a netted frame for the mangetout but we're waiting for this week's expected cold spell to pass before planting or sowing anything outside.
Strawberry flowers are blooming everywhere, but sadly won't become strawberries if the frost gets them. This visitor is one of my excuses for not achieving much. A 9-week old trainee guide dog - adorable!
The Clash provide the title song.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Earth Song

It's Earth Day - a day to celebrate our amazing planet and encourage people to be more environmentally friendly. Making compost with food scraps and waste paper/card has got to be up there as one of the most satisfying and environmentally friendly things we can all do.

I mixed up the contents of our bins today. Mostly because there was a hole under one and we were worried that there would be a rat nesting in there - I'm pleased there wasn't! Our compost seems a bit wet, but the worms love it and it always turns out good in the end.
There it is, earth in the making!
It was an unexpectedly beautiful day, with pretty much full sunshine all afternoon while we were on the plot. This is our valerian, with its lush greenery - looking tropical in the afternoon sunshine.
The flowers are forming but the stems are hollow so don't seem like they'll be frost there really a snow/frost risk for us next week??
I sowed some more seeds: Red Brussels sprouts, Nelson Brussels sprouts, Minicole cabbages, Victoria Florence fennel - all in modules and under cover in the greenhouse.
The Toledo leeks have germinated but the other year-old leek seeds haven't. I love the way leek and other onion seedlings always start bent double like this.
The Aster seeds haven't germinated as well as the marigold seeds have, but hopefully there will be enough for a nice show of flowers.
The mangetout has grown well and I hope to get the frame up for them tomorrow but will probably wait another week before planting them out.
We're living on rhubarb, it's delicious, but the plants will need splitting later in the year. One of the plants isn't so happy; the stems are short and the leaves look a bit yellow.
I broke open this stone - I was hoping to find some crystals inside.

It was full of chalk - interesting, but I would have preferred crystals!
So, for Earth Day, here's Earth Song by Michael Jackson...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Catch the Sun

Well done Jamie! He's finished digging Plot 7 - the last quarter where the sweetcorn, small pumpkins and french beans will grow.
I spent the few hours on the plot enjoying the sunshine once the chilly wind had moved on. I fiddled about basically: cleaning (weeding) the greenhouse, digging some compost into the trench where the sweetpeas are going. I spent way to long creating an odd-looking structure for them - "it'll be fine once it's covered in flowers"! I pinched out the growing tip on the sweetpeas in the greenhouse - I hope they survive what's meant to be a freezing night..
I potted on my sad-looking Tigerella tomato seedlings - they're very weak. I only planted up the 9 strongest looking as I only want 1 plant anyway!
The picture above shows the row of worked-on plots leading to our plots 7 & 8 at the end of the row - it's so lovely seeing new growth appearing across the site. Lots of people are already putting their seeds in. Perhaps we'll be able to now that Jamie's finished the hard work!
Here are Doves singing the title track...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Can You Dig It?

I know I've got a separate wildlife blog, but I love this super-macro photo so much that I have to share it on here. It's a female orange tip butterfly that was in the greenhouse.
Look at that eye!
These are the butterflies which are currently most prolific on the allotment site. Earlier in the year we've had tortoiseshells and brimstones. The females actually have black tips to their wings; the males have the orange wingtips.
Anyway, back to gardening... The title is because that's what I asked Jamie yesterday. I'd finished digging the quarter which is going to be a flower plot this year but my digging technique left the plot about 2 foot higher than it should be. With a bit of 'knocking back'  by Jamie it now looks like this - much better!

Hopefully we'll soon get some of the promised rain and then I can put stepping stones across the middle and start thinking about which flowers go where... that's the plan, I wonder if it'll work this year..
Talking of flowers, I'm planning to make some chive flower vinegar again as soon as these open up - I'm hoping that will be tomorrow otherwise I may miss out on them. Chive flowers that come later in the year are never as good (I find) as the first blooms. 
A little bit of Google-fanciness to make this look more interesting than it is!
We've had some new plotholders join us over the last couple of months and we're very pleased that some of them are at our end of the site, so we have a nice big block of loved plots. So lovely to see new people enjoying the site as much as we do.
Thanks to the Mock Turtles for the soundtrack...

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A Little Time

There's always something watching; normally it's magpies ..This time it's a VOLE.
I know! Enemy of the broad bean grower, but really! How cute is that? Rustling around in the neighbour's strawberry bed while Jamie was digging. I think he did well to get this photo before the little chap scurried off (the vole, not Jamie).
As long as he stays on the neighbour's plot and doesn't find my mangetout growing in the greenhouse I don't mind :-)
It's Easter holidays, so Jamie planted some of our potatoes on Thursday (13th April). We have two short rows with 4 spuds in each: 1 x Burgundy Red, 1 x Orla, 2 x Kestrel and the other row is 4 x Desiree. Our other potatoes are going into bags, which we'll try to do in the next week or so.
Sowing the chard in modules means that I can be selective for which colours I plant out on the plot. Plenty to choose from there. We're having a plant sale in June so none of these will be wasted - I only need about 3 plants but like to have one of each colour.
Music provided by The Beautiful South,  as I have a little more time before going back to work.

Monday, 10 April 2017


Wow! What a beautiful weekend that was. It's now Monday and the temperature has dropped, but I don't mind as I'm at work (on lunch break I hasten to add!).
It was a bit too hot for digging, but I did some and Jamie finished off the patch where a compost bin was and where we are growing some sweetcorn this year on Plot 3. The plants on the left are the valerian, which has grown like crazy - it should have some nice white flowers that smell of vanilla.
I found the new packet of leek seeds that I had lost, so we now have another potful sowed - they are called Toledo. Raspberry plants are looking fresh with the buds looking promising - I never did get round to tidying up the bed as intended.
My Tigerella tomato seedlings at work are looking less than happy - our office is just too hot for them, I think. There should be at least a couple which can be transplanted in a week or so, but their stems are so weak they may not survive the move. Luckily our grafted tomato plants should be delivered soon.
We left the site last night after a lovely few hours, with armfuls of rhubarb from plotholder, Lesley - ours isn't quite ready for picking yet.
Today's song is 'Sunny' sung by Marvin Gaye, but now it's back-to-work time...

Saturday, 8 April 2017


The shelves in the greenhouse are filling up. Today I sowed Duchess mixed aster and French Honeycomb marigolds in seed trays. And a pot of Oarsman leeks are there too, along with a drainpipe sown with mangetout - I found the drainpipe on a vacant plot - it's meant to make it easier to transplant the seedlings without damaging the roots.
The beetroot, salad and chard are all germinating, so the temperature must be just right for them - it was just right for me too today - hot sunshine and blue skies - delightful!
The broad beans have left the greenhouse and are now in Plot 3 - one  row looks very healthy, the other row is not so good so I've added cloches to help them through their early days... They may need replacing with a new bean popped into the ground in a couple of weeks time, we'll see...
The onions are beginning to sprout so we're keeping them watered while they develop. Today I sowed some salad onions (Apache and White Lisbon) and some Pompei silverskin-type onions into a small raised bed.

It's been very dry over the last week although there have been some frosty mornings and this morning we had a thick fog before the sun burned it off.
Aah, it felt like a Summer's day. It was nice doing lots of smaller jobs with very little digging, that may be easier if we get some rain in the week - but not when I'm on leave I hope!
Moby provides the title track...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How to Save a Life

Another year has passed. Nine years of real, enjoyable life as a result of another family's kindness. This is my annual post when my transplanted kidney is at the forefront of my mind.
A few of my daily dose

Kidney transplantation is a cheaper treatment for kidney failure than dialysis. Although most people have one more kidney than they need there are never enough kidneys for the people on the waiting list. France has recently introduced the opt-out donor system which means there is 'presumed consent' to donate. In the UK we still opt-in, by signing the register and carrying a donor card. In both systems family-members can over-ride the wishes of the deceased when the time comes. I'm not religious; I think that people should donate their body parts after death, but appreciate that the death-bed is a hard time to be making such a decision and I'm not entirely convinced that the Government should make the decision on behalf of the dead.
Make sure your family know your wishes
I'm grateful to the NHS and the fact that it still (just) has enough funding to cover the dialysis costs for everyone who needs it, unlike some other countries. Of course, our poor NHS needs assistance from charity more and more as less 'real time' money is put into the system that we're so proud of. I hope my donated kidney lasts longer than the rest of my body so that I won't need to return to dialysis in the future. Having said that, the improvements to dialysis systems are huge and hopefully they'll make it to the UK from the US - wearable dialysis machines? Really!
Thank you to all of you who have already chosen to save at least one life after you've moved on...
Here are The Fray singing along to this post:

Monday, 3 April 2017

Mr Blue Sky

Aah, blue skies, warm sunshine, lots of plotholders and digging - what a lovely Sunday afternoon. That calls for a timelapse...
It's a mirror image of the actual site
Jamie was finishing off preparation of the potato plot and the little raised bed for our silverskin pickling onions - we've trying Pompei this year, hope the slugs don't demolish them like last year...
Meanwhile I was digging the plot for flowers, courgette and mangetout. I didn't get to the end of my patch - too much hard work with all the weeds and grass, but another couple of hours should get it sorted... Oh, ok, I did stop for a few chats too I guess you spotted those in the video - it was HAHA committee talk - honest :-)
I also did a bit of clearing where our herbs grow and found where some of the snails have been hiding.
We're pleased to see that all the snails seem to have increased our thrush population though and they were standing by waiting for us to leave in the evening.
A bit of ELO to provide the music for our enjoyable, tiring afternoon. You'll be humming it all day now, whether you like it or not :-)