Saturday, 29 March 2008

Asparagus has arrived

This morning I got up super early (well 7am but that is pretty early for a Saturday) and headed down to the allotment to tackle nettles before the rain arrived. It was actually very pleasant and in between the frequent coffee breaks I managed to make good progress with the clearing, it I can keep it up then I will actually have somewhere to plant my leeks.

I returned home completely spent at around 10:00, 1 hour later and the postman kindly delivered 10 asparagus crowns, after reading Ken Muir's instructions that they must be planted immediately on receipt and seeing that the weather forecast was predicting rain for the next 10 years I trotted back to the allotment to quickly chuck the crowns in my carefully prepared asparagus bed.

Unfortunately I had overlooked that although I had dug over the bed and covered it in manure several months ago, I would still need to actually dig the bed. 1 hour later and rather a lot more tired I had a rudimentary asparagus bed, as you can see from the photo the crowns sort of fit, although to be very fair it isn't all my fault because I have ended up with 11 crowns instead of 10 so my careful (ahem) measuring was never going to add up.

After the pain of digging the trench I actually had a pretty good time placing the crowns and spreading the roots around. Re-filling the trench wasn't so much fun but I am hopefully looking forward to many years of home grown asparagus, and at least I have learnt in advance that there is no way I am digging a trench for the potatoes.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A plot visit at last

After a sickeningly long time I finally managed to get some visits in at the allotment, I spent a couple of hours up there yesterday complete with snow and then actually had a sunny morning there today. Not all that much progress to report, raspberries might be starting to grow and the plum tree has a couple of hopeful looking buds, the apple tree is just about to burst into flower which made me feel very spring like, despite the wintery weather. In fact I am feeling so hopeful that I have sowed my tomatoes and sweetcorn (inside of course), with a bit of luck the weather will sort itself out before I need to plant them outside.

I was lucky to be away over Easter so missed the real snow which was evidently here. I also received some sweet peas and some Globe Artichoke seedlings from Mum which is very exciting. I am planning to plant the sweet peas in the garden along with 1 of the Artichokes, the other 8 will go to the allotment where I am thinking of planting them as a sort of boundary fence. I have never eaten artichokes but at least they make spectacular flowers if nothing else.

Yesterday I dragged OH off to the Garden centre and bought a cheepy plastic greenhouse to put seedlings in, hopefully this will reduce the fatality rate after I manage to germinate them. I also got a very nice blueberry plant 'Bluecrop', which is going to live in a pot since they only like acid soil and I hacve very strong alkaline. I am now setting my sights on some strawberry plants for the garden (last year's look rather dead) and also some blackberries and red currants for the allotment.

Finally one last piece of excitement; I now have neighbors on both sides of my allotment! I met one side yesterday and they seem very nice, also very novice which is good, hopefully I will see the other side soon. This means that finally I can be certain about my boundaries and also that I have some other hands to help with the battle against the nettles.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

One potato, two potato, three...

Last week my potato seeds finally arrived from Mr Fothergills, a staggering 5 weeks after ordering, it seems the delay was because the free Yukon gold tubers were out of stock, I mean who cares? If they are free then I am not really bothered about the variety so just give me something else right?

Anyway grumble over, they have finally arrived much to my joy, a parcel for me and the long awaiting potatoes, OH immediately declared me crazy on the grounds that these potatoes were exactly the same as the ones Tesco sells (for a fraction of the price of course). I patiently explained about certified growers, reliable stock and disease resistance etc to which he concluded that they were exactly the same as the ones at Tesco. I guess there is no getting through to some people!

So I now have 2 shelves on the bookcase filled with egg boxes of potatoes quietly chitting away. I have 20 Charlotte, 10 Pixie (the replacement of the free Yukon gold) and 12 Arran Victory, heres hoping for a long season of potatoes, but before than I am holding my breath for the first shoots.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Growing veg without the plot

I was very interested to read, in the Guardian weekend magazine, an article about growing veg in small spaces (sadly it isn't available online). By following their plan you could have home grown veg all year round, obviously there might be times when you only have a little bit but they did manage to squeeze in peas, carrots, lots of salad crops, kale, leeks and even squash amongst others. The entire things was based around a 3m x 3m bed divided up into squares into which you sowed the goods.

Now obviously I have an entire allotment but it was a really refreshing view to read that maybe 1 squash plant would be enough, and carrots could be fitted in around the onions. Last year I stuffed all my veg into the raised beds in the garden and after under-estimating the size of a pumpkin plant the chard ended up a little crowded, the onion (there was just 1) was lost under the courgettes and the lettuce had to battle to stay alive but in the end it just sort of worked.

Now that I am about to start planting up my allotment I am trying to work out planting positions and spacing but after reading this artlicle I think I will just relax and see how it all works out. Maybe some stuff won't thrive (or survive) but hopefully plenty more will and if this article is anything to go by then I don't really need all 6 of my squash plants to produce. So if you only have 1 flower bed, or even a few pots don't be put off there is still plenty of veg that you can grow.

Today I sowed the first of my salad crops in one of the raised beds in the garden, I was planning to go with rows but have been converted to the use of squares so the bed has been divided up into sections and each one will have one of the following sown in it: Rocket, Land cress, Lambs lettuce, Mizuna, Mustard and a mixed lettuce seed, as they germinate and grown I will start to sow some of the other squares until I hopefully have a patchwork of salad crops for continual harvesting.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Stormy waters

Over breakfast I was thinking of all the things I hoped to get done this weekend, more digging maybe, sowing the lettuce seeds that arrived yesterday, maybe even buying my banana plant a bigger pot. As I left the house it started to rain, there goes any hope of having a fire with all those nettle roots I thought (for some reason nettle roots are natural fire retardant) and just now I have read that storms are set to batter Britain. Great.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Introducing the plot

I thought it would be nice to write a sort of monthly roundup style of post to record the developments throughout the year, then I realised that I have never really introduced the plot, so here it is:

The plot, number 19, is one of about 20 on a fenland site, a 5 minute walk away from my house, it is owned by the council, who sadly run a very loose ship so the size of the plot is unknown but I have marked out an area which is roughly 10ft wide and 100ft long, a pretty large space me thinks. There are 3 apple trees on the plot, none of which did all that much last year but provide some shelter at least.
At the top of the plot you can see where I am starting to clear the ground, luckily this area was covered in a huge wild cabbage patch which was easily cleared and is now destined to become my pumpkin, pea and sweetcorn bed, I plan to plant them using the "Three sisters" planting method.

The middle of the plot has now been cleared, except for the rather evil looking nettle patch which I have been avoiding. I am going to be using this area, my largest cleared patch for the root veg which is by far the most popular type of veg in my house.

Finally you get to the interesting part of the plot, the bottom. When I took on the plot last July this part was mostly covered in carpet so the nettles were slightly less prolific and I tackled it first. When the raspberries and plum tree arrived this was the only part of the plot which was ready so they were planted here, not exactly a great planting plan but it seems to be working out ok. The area for the asparagus bed has been dug behind the raspberries and I will also be building the shed and compost bins down here.

The soil is actually peat which is interesting, it easy to dig, hopefully full of nutrients and also recommended for use when storing veg through winter, I have translated this to mean that I can leave my winter crops in the ground until I need them. On the downside the plot is very exposed so there is a stupid amount of wind and plenty of frost, not sure how this is going to work out but I guess that is what this project is all about. So there you have it, Souper allotment in all its glory.