Sunday 24 February 2013

And so it begins

Last year turned out to be a little hectic. The terrible weather meant surviving at the allotment, trying to grow what you could rather than enjoying the summer days. Perhaps unsurprisingly this meant few posts for the blog. Now as the days lengthen and the temperatures increase it's time to start growing once again. Hopefully this year will be more like the summer I dream of. As always the first thing to start the year is the potatoes being laid out to chit. I'm going to try them in the shed this year in the hope they'll stay a little warmer in the still freezing temperatures. This year I'm going to be growing: - Charlotte, always successful and always delicious. - Sarpo Mira, blight resistant and grew well last year. I'm enjoying using the stored tubers for roast potatoes - Mayan Gold, new to me. I'm hoping for some excellent roast potato from this one. - Vitelotte, another new one for me. Known as the truffle potato in Germany, I'm very excited to sample this one. For the first time I have bought all my potato seeds from Otter Farm. The seeds look excellent so I'm hopeful for another good year of potatoes (more on this later but I had an excellent potato year in 2012, despite the rain).

Sunday 13 May 2012

Keeping smiling

So far it has been a slow growing year, you've probably noticed the rain and maybe you've even noticed that the temperatures seems rather colder than usual for May. This weekend was a rare treat with 2 whole days of sunshine. I have finally got all my potatoes in the ground and the Charlotte's are already peaking through. The asparagus is just starting to come through and it won't be long before the blackcurrants start to ripen. Sadly though not everyone is happy, my allotment neighbour is proving to be an expert in allotment moaning, the work, the weeds, the state of everything is not to her liking. So remember people, an allotment is a hobby, it won't always go to plan but it shouldn't be a chore. Keep smiling, one day the rain will surely stop.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Things are getting started!

So I have been neglecting my poor blog a little but the allotment is still going strong, happyily all the allotments are finally being cultivated so I'm hoping for a lot less weeds this year. I have some new alltoment neighbours which is lovely after years of being alone on the weedy end of the site (although that was lovely when things went a little wild on my own plot!).

Digging is still ongoing so I'm not quite ready to begin the mad sowing period that seems to always mark my spring but things aren't looking too bad (photos to come, I promise). I have a couple of meals of leeks left and the kale is almost over but has kept me well fed right through the winter. Against the odds my Perpetual Spinach survived the winter and is putting on some lovely growth which will hopefully take me through to May when it usually bolts.

I have my potatoes chitting in the coldframe, this year all my potatoes are from Alan Roman, expensive postage but the quality is amazing and this year he started selling them in bags of numbers rather than weight which was much easier for me to estimate. I'll be going with my tried and trusted Charlotte but also trying some Premier and Harlequin for the first time.

Weekend plans include taking photos, planting onions and ordering those final packets of seeds. I love spring :)

Monday 2 January 2012

2011 - A Recap

Wow, what happened to the second half of 2011? Despite NO posts since August (resolving to do better this year) I did manage to keep up with the allotment so here is a recap of 2011:

Winning fruit - Raspberries. They started fruiting early and keep me fed with a regular supply of delicious fruits right through until September.

Winning Veg - Difficult to choose just 1, it was a great year for leeks, potatoes and carrots.

Best Newcomer - Brussel Sprouts - an unexpected success!

Never again - Sweetcorn - it takes up loads of room and never seems to pollinate properly.

Most over-grown - French beans, after accidently sowing 2 packets of seed I was overrun with the things (and the freezer is full of them too)

Sadly missed - Broccoli, I failed to germinate and keep alive any of my sprouting or calabrese Broccoli. Maybe next year.

2012 is off to a great start, I finally have guttering on my shed so watering should be much easier this year. Despite the very wet wethaer I have managed to dig over most of the plot, and clear some nasty weeds in the process. Hopefully I'll soon get a chance to get some garlic planted and the broadbeans sown.

Happy New Year!

Sunday 7 August 2011

Last chance to sow

The allotment is now running at full speed and every visit results in a bounty of veg - just today I came home with the first cucumber, a slightly over-large courgette, new potatoes, raspeberries, onions and more french beans than I know what to do with.

Evenings are drawing in but there is still plenty left to do, there are still a couple more weeks in which to sow seeds, and in fact seed germination was so poor this spring that you might find it easier to get things growing now. Today I put in more fennel, lettuce, chinese greens and a slightly optimistic Japanese Kale which can also be used as a green leaf. Hopefully these will come through to fill the gaps left by the finished peas and completly disasterous spinach.

Now I'm just waiting for that first ripe tomoato.

Monday 20 June 2011

In Praise of...The Hoe

So it appears my last post was in March, ahem. Sorry about that. Despite appearances I have been busy digging and planting, the allotment has battled through the dry weather and it at last starting to produce food. This year has turned out to be incredibly busy; I changed jobs, went to Manchester, went to Dudley, went to Croatia, saw numerous friends and even managed to fit in a few concerts but despite this my allotment is relatively weed free. The reason is simple; my hoe.

Rarely mentioned, my hoe is quite simply my can't live without allotment tool (well ok, I need my fork and spade too, oh and I use my watering can a fair bit as well). Coming quite late in my purchases I finally had my "Ah Ha" moment a few weeks ago when a fellow allotmenter kindly offered to "Hoe up" a weedy area for me, I finally realised that waiting until I had time to dig the ground and clear the weeds properly was exactly where I was going wrong, everyone else is simply hoeing them down.

Oh course they come back, if it's hot and wet they'll be back before the day's out but it doesn't matter, clearing an area with a hoe is so quick and easy that you can whizz round and clear the worst of the weeds* in half an hour and if you persist, the weeds not only don't self-seed everywhere but are also weakened so when you do finally get around to digging them up the tangle of roots stands no chance.

So next time the ground is so dry you can't get a fork into it, or you're rushing to get home in time to feed to family reach for the hoe and enjoy the beautiful, if temporary, weed free allotment**.

* - Couch grass remains annoyingly resistant to my hoe
** - obviously I still have some weeds but compared to last year...well lets just say it's much better.

Sunday 27 March 2011

First sowings

This year seems to be taking on a life of its own, and sadly there is only limited time for gardening hence my posts being very few and far-between. I don't think you need me to say that I am woefully behind but really I'm already at least a month behind and it's only March!

I have managed to sow some peppers, aubergines and chillis but, so far at least, only the chillis seem to be thriving. I expect I'll try another sowing next week. Today I put in some assorted lettuce seed and some beetroot but there is still plenty to do.

My potatoes are chitting but things seem to be going very slowly which is concerning. Hopefully they'll be ready to put into the ground soon, mind you I'll have to finish digging the potato bed first...

On a positive note the garlic is doing really well and I'm still harvesting leeks from last year which is impressive.

Here's hoping for a sunny weekend next week so I can actually get some stuff done!

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Seedy start to the year

This year's seeds have arrived! I love this time of year when everything is still in the planning stage, the allotment is half dug and I can sit inside with a cup of tea and dream of the bumper harvests. Sadly we all know that not everything will go smoothly but part of the fun is seeing just what will thrive this year.

I will be growing 'True and Tender' parsnips, 'Giant Red' red carrots and having another try with the 'Diamond' aubergines. After last year's success I am repeating the 'Wautoma' cucumbers but this time I'm going to follow the instructions and try and save some seed! In fact, all of my seeds are from 'Real Seeds' so in theory, since none are F1 varieties, I'll be able to save seed from all my vegetables. Watch this space...

Tomato wise I'm going to risk growing a few plants on the allotment so alongside 'Latah' and 'Gardener's Delight' I'll be growing 'Galina' and 'Solanum Spontaneum' which is an intriguing orange currant variety.

Also going into the new category are some blue 'Azur' khol rabi and a brocolli raab. All of these will join the usual brassicas, salads, beans, potatoes and leeks that I have seed left over from.

Now I just need to finalise a planting plan and quickly work out where the seed gaps are. How is your planning going?

Sunday 2 January 2011

Happy New Year

The last few months of 2010 went a little mental so sorry for the lack of posts. I did manage to get my sister through a wedding, and of course give her a proper send off with a rather boozy hen night, and then there was some craziness at work which doesn't look like it will be fully sorted until February.

All of that and the terrible weather has meant considerably less time was spent at the allotment. As a result the allotment is looking very weedy, even with all the snow and ice there are lots of things growing and it's just a shame they're not things I can eat. I have managed a couple of recent visits so the digging has at least begun but once your feet have doubled in size and the spade is twice as heavy with wet mud I start to wish for a cup of tea and a warm sofa.

Late in November I found time to plant 'Sicilian Red' and 'Lautrec Wight' garlic in the raised beds at home, where they will hopefully avoid the rust I have had trouble with at the allotment. Since then I have been given some garlic bulbs by a kind neighbour so I will be putting in a couple of rows on the allotment too.

I still have kale, cabbages, brocolli, celeriac, parnips and leeks growing but annoyingly now that my rabbit proofing has stopped the rabbits eating everything it has given the pigeons a good chance. It looks like next year will see the purchase of some proper netting for the brassicas.

Now I just need to get my seed order placed before the VAT rise.

Happy New Year!

Sunday 24 October 2010

Rain, weeds and the first frost

I spent Saturday battling the cold and the rain to try and get some of the weeds cleared. Luckily at this time of year most things are dying down and weeding becomes more of a simple digging task, the wet soil helping the long tap roots to slide out satisfyingly. I managed to dodge the first few rain showers and enjoyed a cup of tea huddled inside my shed but after a while I decided to face up to the fact that real gardeners just get on with things (well I have seen it raining during Gardener's world and during River cottage...). A few hours later I had made some progress and had also succeeded in completely coating myself, and all my clothes in a thick layer of mud. In fact I think I might have caused some alarm for my neighbours as I trudged back!

We had out first frost last week and more are expected in the coming days so it was time to pull up all the remaining carrots, mostly small but hopefully still tasty. I also pulled the first of many celeriac and we enjoyed eating it alongside some stored potatoes. Annoyingly I haven't managed to get all the potatoes up yet but a wet weekend isn't the right time to try and do this so I'll have to wait for drier conditions.

Most of the allotments on my site are already being put to sleep for the winter, everyone seems to live at the allotments for 6 months of the year and then vanish completely during the winter months. I think this is a missed opportunity and will still be there nurturing my cabbages, perpetual spinach, parsnips, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, leeks and of course the sprouting broccoli. Hopefully I'll have plenty to keep me going until spring.

Finally don't forget to buy your garlic, I have ordered Lautrec Wight and Sicilian Red, both are Autumn planting and should store well. I love knowing that even on the coldest and darkest days there is something slowly growing beneath the soil.