Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Its Only Natural

What an unexpected bonus for two days leave in February - temperatures in the high teens with a beautiful blue sky. Just lovely! Yesterday we had little trip to a nearby village called Inkpen to visit a ... field.

And what a field! The Inkpen Crocus Field is apparently "Britain's biggest display of wild crocuses" and I'm not surprised, but I am surprised that we only learned of its existence a couple of weeks ago.
The flowers aren't densely packed like in Kew Gardens or other cultivated gardens. It's prettier, I think, because the blooms aren't really in clumps as you may expect. Were they brought back by 12th Century crusaders? Or have they just escaped from nearby gardens? Well, surely there would be yellow ones if they were garden escapees....
Anyway, we loved it (and so did all the bees) and if you're in the area you should take a look.
And we saw a couple of deer while we were there - always a pleasure to spot these shy animals.
Male Roe Deer
Female Roe Deer
After that little jaunt we were working on the plot today. We cleared the patch where we had left potatoes in the ground. None suitable for eating, not surprisingly after all these months! Jamie gave it a good dig over once we'd cleared all the spuds - that looks better!

I planted up two pots for a Summer display - intended to pretty up the communal area during our Open Day in July/August (we haven't agreed a date yet). I added a small Rudbeckia plant to the Leucocoryne pot, as they are only meant to flower in June/July, whereas the Crocosmia should flower 'all Summer long'.

I chopped back all the snow-damaged broad bean plants - it hasn't left much growth! But we have plans to sow some more beans in modules, so if we manage to get even a few early ones from these plants we'll be happy.

And here's an impressive beetle I found. Looking gorgeous in the sunshine - A violet oil beetle, given away by lovely violet tinges on its sides and legs.

The title song by Crowded House is of course referring to the Inkpen Crocus Field.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Its Going to Happen

We had a lovely couple.of hours on the plot yesterday, in warm sunshine. The crocuses have opened up because of the extra warmth and we saw several (or possibly one) Brimstone butterflies flitting up and down alongside the hedge. There were also plenty of bees - bumblebees and other types.
It was lovely though we couldn't stay long. However, we managed to plant our shallots: 23 Red Sun. Each surrounded with a sprinkling of 6x. And then we covered them with some netting. Hoping that will keep the birds and mice away from them until they've grown enough roots to secure them to the ground.
Jamie hoed lime into this year's future brassica plot. The rest of the time we were on site we spent chatting with other plotholders and having some coffee and biscuits. There was plenty of gardening going on around us. We (the HAHA committee) have some plans for an area of the site near the toilet and one of the 'mares tail plots'. We have a work day in a couple of weeks so more on that in March... In the meantime, here is another photo of one of our crocus pots. (with a bumblebee who's just taken off)
Crocus are so pretty and there isn't much else of interest to photograph on site at the moment. However, Jamie did uncover these and I haven't identified them yet... I wonder if they're good guys or bad guys.. Suggestions are welcome!

Today we didn't make it to the allotment but we did drive to nearby Charlton Park Garden Centre to pick out a few additional seed potatoes. Such a great selection - but we don't need many as we always end up not using them.

We already have some Nicola and Kestrel. We bought a handful of individual tubers. I selected Dido, which we've not heard of before, because my Dad was an engineer at Harwell on the Dido reactor and the others are chosen because of their various attributes as shown below..

It was a shame we missed out on a second sunny February day on the allotment, but at least we have all our potatoes now. And I have two days off work so will hopefully catch up with a bit of plot-work then...maybe. We decided to go for a walk along the canal just as the sun was going down and were glad we did.
And the title is courtesy of The Undertones because Spring is surely on it's way...

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Since Yesterday

We've had a few hours on the allotment this weekend. It wasn't raining or snowing and in fact we saw a little sunshine which was very welcome and decidedly Spring-like.
Jamie cleared an area of weeds on Plot3 during the week - our shallots are desperate to be planted and that's where they'll go. Then yesterday we cleared a bit more..
The grass that self-seeds is really annoying, so it's a hands-and-knees job with a hand trowel initially, which is laborious but worth it. And a friendly robin cleared up the grubs as we uncovered them.
So since yesterday (hence the song title) we've dug through more than half of Plot3 - that was a good start, though we're extremely achey. Actually I was aching so much that I forgot to take the final 'after' photo - you know how it is when you've been working on the plot for the first time in months!
Jamie added some quality home-produced compost, with a sprinkling of 6X, around the small rhubarb plant that didn't achieve much last year. We're hoping this is its year, though it is competing with a lot of tree roots in its current location.
We left as the Sun dipped behind the tree-line - how lovely to still be light(ish) until 5:30 these days. I'm glad February is a short month and it'll soon be March. And in the meantime I hope I buy a new camera as you may have noticed the splodge that's appeared on all my photos :-{
Strawberry Switchblade provided the song.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

A Whiter Shade of Pale

A mostly grey January has moved on to a white February. We had snowfall literally all day yesterday. That really doesn't happen often in West Berkshire, so it was very exciting. We had more than 16cm of snow by the end of the day.
I didn't want to risk the 25 mile journey to work (lucky I didn't as the roads became the usual mess) so I worked from home, keeping a close eye out the window with much repetition of the phrase "It's still snowing!".
Finally I'd worked enough hours so Jamie and I went for a walk through the Winter Wonderland...
..to the allotment, obviously. Crossing the slippery bridge over the part-frozen canal. All the ducks were hiding somewhere.
Passing by the Corn Exchange with the clock looking a bit special with its covering of snow
and along snow-filled roads to the allotment site.
We had to clear snow so that we could open the allotment gates and when we got to our plot we had to knock lots of snow off our polytunnel and netted cages.
Our plots look tidier with a blanket of snow on them!
Luckily there wasn't much damage but the squashes in the greenhouse are looking less edible than they did last week - I think they've finally succumbed to the cold.
And our poor broad beans ☹️ We knew they'd grown too much over the thus far mild Winter and we thought they'd get frost damage, but this was a bit extreme. At least half of the plants were squashed flat under that heavy weight of snow. There's a slim chance that they may re-grow - we'll see...
Look at all these goldfinches! They were flying around the allotment all the while - shame they didn't turn out for the Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend. And, do you know what a flock of goldfinches is called? A charm! Isn't that pretty? There were probably about 30 birds and one kestrel keeping close watch.
We didn't sit down....(!) but it was nice to trudge through the crunchy snow and release a pheasant that was stuck in someone's brassica cage...
With frozen fingers we walked home past other frozen people and children with very rosy cheeks pulling sledges. Such a lot of fun - if you don't need to travel.
And I wanted to share my photo, from January 31st at 7:30am. That's Venus on the left of the moon and Jupiter on the right - they were so bright (much brighter than this photo shows) in the clear morning sky, quite beautiful.
And the song title - Procol Harum of course, aah sing-a-long everyone :-)