Thursday, 22 May 2008

I love this time of the year!

I think that May/June is my absolute favourite time! So many exciting things are happening in the garden and allotment and the weather is much sunnier. Great!

I'm mostly going to write this blog in chronoligical order but have to start with the best thing that happened today. I was told on tuesday that I could have any fruit from a vacant plot that was about to be cleared - I asked about a fab gooseberry - old, so was going to be cleared, but FULL of fruit - and was told I could have it. So I went to the plot this morning (was there at 8.30am!) and dug it up. It's super! I am fully aware that it is totally the wrong time to transplant it, but prepared the ground well, and fully watered it in. I've got my fingers crossed that it makes it.

To the back garden. My beloved rhododendron is looking glorious. This fella hasn't let me down since I hacked it back when we first moved in.

The chives are also looking very healthy. The flowers are lovely with the purple flower heads bobbing around.

On to the plot. Last weekend we cleared the horrible weeds from the fruit beds. It looks so much better now. Carpet down, hopefully we'll be able to keep those weeds at bay.

My blueberry bush is doing well. The little flowers have mostly dropped their petals now and the berries are starting to plump up nicely.

These little gooseberries are from one of my new gooseberry bushes. There are about 6 or 7 on the bush. I'm thinking lots of jam and pies mmmmmmm!

An arty (B&W) pic taken by the gal of my little gladiator. He did a great job of hacking up all the weeds he could find. They didn't stand a chance.

I understood why the leeks bolted - they are in their second year. But my shallots, garlic and onions are bolting too now :o( . I've nipped off the flowers and watered them well. They won't store now though. SO- lots of french onion soup!

I sowed five more varieties of carrot. We seem to having a lot of trouble getting carrots to germinate on our allotments this year. So for my second sowing of carrots I really gave them some TLC. I raked the bed finely again, scraped some shallow trenches in the soil, then filled them with compost. This is then what I sowed my carrot seeds into. Types I have sown are;- Parmex, Sugarsnax, Cosmic Purple, Yellowstone and Little Finger. The three other plants are my severely mistreated clumps of marigolds.

Beans got the treatment next. I planted the runner/pole beans and climbing french beans in fours - two on each side of the canes. I planted one bean at the base of each cane and also popped a sweetpea in there for good measure. Bean types are Pole Star Runner, Amishland True Cranberry Pole Bean & Amishland Heritage Pole bean (both from the USA), Mr Fearn's Beans, Coronan D'Ora, and Violette all climbing french beans.

The dwarf french beans I planted along the bed in front of the canes;- Kinghorn Wax, Borlotti Du and Annabel.

I planted my little sweetcorn babies amongst the pumpkins and squashes on the two beds. They will be happy with the squash romping around thier feet keeping them cool and weed free (hopefully!).The broad beans are now plumping up nicely. I tried the baby ones whole as suggested in my book but it wasn't to my taste. I hope that the more fully grown beans fare better or they will be for the chop next year!

My peas are looking good now too. I have several pods that hopefully will be nearly ready to pick on my return from my jollies.

Spud update. 'Experimental' first earlies are flowering prolifically and I'm going to dig one up next weekend - whoooohooo!

Strawbs are beginning to ripen now. I really need to make a net covering to keep of the birdies. One of the next jobs!

And finally a plot shot. I'm off on my hols for a week, I really am going to miss it, so much happens every time I leave it for a couple of days, let alone nearly a week! I think it really looks great already though xxx

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Toms, squash & pumpkins

Another lovely sunny day on the plot. Today was a day of planting and I did loads. We arrived at 10.30, the Hubby and kids stayed until 2pm and I left at 5.

HUbby put up my two new arches, while I dug over the bed ready for the pumpkins and squashes. It was a doddle. Even though it was full of weeds when I started they lifted with mimimal effort from the bed that has carrots in last year. I planted Jack-Be-Little, Ornamental Gourds, Small Sugar and Early Butternut to go up and over the arches - two of each variety on each side, In Bed 2 I planted Turks Turban (2) (lots of room all round), F1 Sunburst (2) and another butternut whose name escapes me at the moment (2) (bit closer together). I'm going to plant my sweetcorn seedlings in the same bed when they are big enough.

Bed 9 I planted up with the only Snowman pumpkin to germinate, Crown Prince (2 - swapped for at Ryton) and Jack-O-Lantern (2 - Whooooooooo!). All squash and pumpkins had some of our manure under them and loads of water to settle them in.

Above is Bed 2

Bed 9

The toms. I grew soooo many different varieties from seed. I culled a load (a very painful process!) which left me with about 4 of each variety. My first sowings were way too early which meant that they were very leggy indeed with only one or two trusses between them. My second sowings are much stockier and shorter - you learn as you go along I suppose, mosly to listen to advice given and go for the middle ground when looking at the sowing times on the packet. I'd already decided that this year I wanted to try a couple of each variety and then hopefully scaling it down to 3 or 4 favourite varieties for next year and just a couple of new ones (much the same as I've done with my peas. I've put one of each variety in the greenhouse and as far as possible two of each outside. Let the experiment commence!

The varieties I'm trying:-

Yellow Brandywine
Fantome Du Laos (from the US)
Sweet Olive
Golden Sunrise
Black Cherry
Red Cherry
Money Maker
Smadar (bush variety)
Sub Arctic Plenty (bush variety)

For hanging baskets:-

Garden Pearl
White Currant (from the US)
Little White Rabbit (from the US)

My leeks from last year never really made the grade. They have very little white stem, mostly made up of leaves and have now gone to seed (as expected). I'll get it right this year hopefully and think I'm just going to let a few of the leeks run their course to see what the flowers are like and maybe save the seed.
Strawbs are looking good!
I have my first baby broadies (forgot to take a photo) so I pnched off the tops to try stop the blackfly. Good job I did as there were already a few being farmed by ants!

I had been going on about needing a coldframe - until I realised that I actually already had one in the form of my carrot frame. With some plastic over the top if needed. It's working brilliantly!

And finally at home my countless varieties of beans (like the peas and toms!) are dtarted to pop up. The dwarf frenches are doing well and of the climbers the Cosse Violette are the winners! I cant believe how fast tehse things grow. Got up this morning they were like - this evening they are open and leaves out! They'd changed even in the first hour of being awake!! Fab!

Friday, 9 May 2008

I am the carpet queen!

It's like a living room with vegetable beds in it! Not the most aesthetically pleasing effect, but does the job with the weeds. Over half my plot now has carpet covering the paths and a man in a carpet shop is dropping me some more off on saturday to finish them off. I know it's often frowned on but the choices I have are carpet, weeds, weeding non-stop or a lot of weed suppressing membrane (££) for now it's gonna be carpet. As odd as it looks it does feel so much more under control and as and when I get hold of slabs etc, I'll slowly replace it.

I also managed to get my first greenhouse crop planted into veg growbags. This is a Crystal Lemon cucumber that seems very happy growing up the cane. I also popped some temporary shading up too that I'll fix permanently next time I go up.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Glorious Sunshine

What an absolutely fabulous couple of days! Hopefully it will last for the next two now I have finished work for the week. I went to the plot after lunch and it was so nice that we came back again when Hubby got home from work.

We've got a real problem with the weeds! All the good stuff is growing rapidly, but so are my docks. You can hardly see some of the paths and it scared me a bit as I saw a Summer of weeding paths. I've now had a few bits of carpet from donations on Freecycle (and funky they are too!) but it's not enough for all my smaller paths. So I bought some weed suppressant fabric from Wilkos and have started to pin it down like my neighbour has. It looks great and really feels like it's the finishing touch to my plot.

Below is a picture of my fruit beds. They are totally over-run and it gives you a real idea of what is happening. I've laid anything I can find to cover it up.

Looking the other way you can see where I have laid my 'special' carpet and some of the fabric. I need to make LOADS more pins (wire bent into an 'n' shape), but it looks sooo much better already with just a few of the paths covered. I WILL NOT WEED PATHS ALL SUMMER!

And finally an update on the spuddies. 'Experimental' earlies looking fab (front). Earlies also fab and earthed up again by Hubby (middle). A few maincrop are poking through (back).

Saturday, 3 May 2008

We've dug the last bed!!!

THIS IS A MOMENTOUS OCCASION! Well, I say 'we' but I really mean 'Hubby'. It feels fantastic and Hubby's really chuffed that he doesn't have to do any more uncultivated digging. I present Bed 9.......
On to other stuff - This is one of our resident robins. As they're so territorial I assume they are a couple. This one was so confident it came right up to us waiting to be feed. It did look rather skinny, but we soon fed it up. Favourite food (often ignoring worms while it waited for us to find them for him) was the grub (chafer?) he has in his mouth.
My next wave of peas has germinated nicely in the greenhouse and I planted them in rows alongside the first two (sugar snap Waverex - grows to 45cm) in Bed 10 and another row of Rondo on the other side of Bed 6 to those already in (and not looking all that happy). I've still got Show Perfection to sow for maincrop.
In the guttering.

Planted and supported with some Parella Red Lettuce to fill up the gap
The whole of Bed 10
The Rondo Peas planted and supported - these caught me out last year and grew much taller than the support I put up for them.

I'm trying to gently get the kids interested in the allotment and gardening in general. The little 'uns giant sunflowers have germinated beautifully and she planted them today in her own little plot (with only a little bit of help from me to get them out of the cups).

The other important kid job of the day was to collect all the dandelion heads so they couldn't set seed. Both helped and between them collected 2 barrowloads!

Hubby also earthed up the earlies in Beds 13 and 14 and his 2 asparagus spears :o) .
While sorting out my straggly over wintered peas I pulled out one of my twiggy pea sticks to find that it has taken root and has started to send out buds. I'm not sure what it is, but it looks like a fruit tree of some kind. I got my twigs from a pile of cuttings so it could well be. Anyway, I planted it and will see what happens.

The mysterious bulbs coming up next to my compost bin turned out to be white bluebells and look lovely. Well worth the wait I think! And on the theme of flowers here are a few more from around my plot.

Broad bean Claudia
My little rescued purple sprouting brocolli has sent out lovely yellow flowers.

Flowers on my raspberries :o) And finally my first strawberry flowers - yum yum!


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