Saturday, 27 March 2010

A helping hand

It was my birthday on Tuesday and along with lots of lovely cards, biscuits, several books, a meal out and of course cake I recieved a very useful present; a cold frame.

Having a birthday at this time of year really focusses the mind on the great seed sowing challenge that it about to start. Well I suppose the sowing part isn't too hard, unless you're lazy like me, but it's that part after they germinate but before they get planted out, where on earth do you put them? For the last few years I have had the crappy greenhouse which was really more trouble than it was worth, each year it waited until it was packed full of tender seedlings and then it would collapse into a mass of soil, pots and dispair.

Last weekend I removed the smallest of the raised beds from the back of the garden and OH kindly carried it down to the allotment where it will be used as an extra strawberry bed. Then we assembled the coldframe which was super easy, positioned it and filled it with gravel before finisheing the whole thing off which some bark chippings. I think even OH was surprised at how good it looks (he's a bit sceptical about this whole veg growing thing).

So far I have the remainder of the potatoes chitting, the sweetpeas and salads hopefully germinating and the very late shallots sprouting in modules. Tomorrow some leeks and tomatoes will join them. So as well as having a frost free place to harden off my seedlings I also have somewhere to grow my chillies throughout the summer and something to supply me with salad throughout the winter. I am very happy.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The start of Spring?

The last 2 weekends have been warm, and sunny, and the days in between mild if overcast so does that mean Spring is finally here? I have seen snowdrops and crocuses but not yet a daffodil so things are certainly running late this year.

On the plus side the long harsh winter has really helped me to clear the allotment, as you can see in the picture I have been working my way down the right hand side of the plot. Previously there was a horrific nettle patch which had become so well established it was impossible to even get a fork into the ground but by covering it for about 6 months and then leaving it to suffer the snow and the frost the roots were finally weakened enough to be cleared. I had the left hand side of the allotment fully cleared and planted last year so it just needs a going over before the planting begins but I am feeling very satisfied to finally, for the first time, have a full allotment available for growing.

The rhubarb has started to show so I have selected the strongest crown for forcing under my as yet un-occupied water butt, so far the longest stem is about 3 inches so I think I am free to start dreaming of rhubarb crumble, rhubarb creme brulee, rhubarb flapjacks...ahem.

The overwintered onions and garlic are growing well, this is my own garlic saved from last year so I am hoping everything goes smoothly. So far I have almost 100% germination rate and relatively little damage from birds and rabbits, I think I'll have a couple more rows of garlic to plant out due to some of my stored garlic shooting but I'm going to try not to end up with quite as much as I did last year!

The sight of the first leaves on the blackcurrant bush have allowed me to think that things might finally be warming up so I have sowed my Celeriac (which is actually several weeks late this year) and also my aubergine and chilli seeds. I think there might be something slightly ironic about Celeriac needing a cool wet summer and Aubergine and Chilli needing a long hot summer. Maybe I'll just say I'm hedging my bets or something.