Friday, 17 March 2017

Spring onions on tape

I bought some onion sets and a few packets of seeds. One of them is White Lisbon spring onions. The seeds are embedded in fibrous tape, spaced at the optimum spacing. The idea is to dig a shallow trough, cut the tape to the required length, lay the tape in the trough, cover with soil and water in. It sounds interesting, so I'll give it a go. No thinning required and the tape is supposed to help with drawing the right level of moisture to the seed for germination.

It's a touch too cold yet, but hopefully next week I can plant a strip of tape that will turn into a nice row of spring onions.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fighting with Tilly

Tilly put up a fight today. The tiller, Tilly, only has a small two stroke engine. It's for tilling the soil not tearing it up. I tried to use it to turn over a patch of ground that had not been dug over and had a lot of weeds. Together we managed it, but Tilly fought me all the way. I think it was easier than digging by hand, but only just. It was certainly quicker, but it still took longer than digging a much bigger area yesterday that was more broken up and had fewer weeds. I raked the patch today to pull out some weeds after Tilly had done her best. That will help in the next few weeks. There's still much more to dig over.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Digging again

Over the winter I've been struggling with a sudden illness. I wasn't able to finish the autumn dig and the plot has been a mess all winter. The weather was warm and calm today so I took a trip up to start preparing for planting.

I used my tilling machine to turn over the small area I dug last autumn and extended it into a bit of the plot I hadn't dug. It was a bit weedy, as you might be able to see. The tiller is not very powerful so it only digs a little on the first pass. I will turn this over again and then rake it which will pull some the weeds out, but I'm sure some will remain.

I need to extend the dig into the untouched areas, some have a covering of short grass. I'm not sure the tiller will manage that, and even if it does I'm not sure digging it in will be a good idea. Still, I'm doing what I can at this stage. My plan is I don't have a plan. I usually draw out a plan in the autumn and lay out the plot in the spring. That way I can dig over the places that I need to plant first. I didn't do that.

I would normally have a few things growing at home by now too, but this year I have nothing started. The good news is that it's not too late. I'm going to grow only the stuff I really like this year, so broad beans, carrots, beetroot, cabbages, peas, mangetout and sweetcorn. I might grow some fillers like onions and potatoes but that's all. The fruit bushes will add to the crops. I'm going to spread out the rows to make sure it's easy to hoe and harvest. The only issue is that empty space always grows weeds, but I'll sort that out as I go.

I need to buy some seeds soon and use any day I feel fine to prepare the plot. I've made a start, but there's a lot still to dig.

Then there's the little problem of repairing the shed roof ...

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Stormy shed

My allotment shed roof is leaking. It is a chipboard panel roof covered with roofing felt. The roofing felt has split and some has blown off. The rain has penetrated the chipboard, so that is probably a right off. Water is not running down the walls, but chipboard is not very resistant to any water.

Covering a roof with roofing felt needs a calm day and a warm day helps a lot. On a cold day the felt is prone to crack. I have decided to wait until the spring to repair the roof, so I've covered the dodgy felt with a tarpaulin. There are bound to be some winter storms; storm Barbara is already forecast for later this week. I hope the tarp survives until I'm ready to repair the roof. I suspect I will need some plywood to make the roof sound before the new felt goes on.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Leeks and Sweetcorn

It was warm, sunny and dry today. Two days ago it was very cold and windy but now June seems to have arrived.

I had leeks and sweetcorn in the greenhouse. Both looked ready to plant out.

The sweetcorn is the second batch. The first batch have suffered in the cold and with some pest damage, but still look a bit bigger than the second batch. I have  nice block of sweetcorn now, let's hope there's enough warm days to let it mature.

The leeks are my one and only batch - it's not worth staging leeks they stand so long in the ground that they can be taken when you're ready, unlike sweetcorn which needs to be taken when it's ripe.

I weeded the sweetcorn patch (again) and lightly dug the leek patch. The leeks are planted by making a hole and popping the leek without its soil from the pot into the hole. The hole is not back-filled, but filled with water. This washes fine soil into the some of the hole and covers the roots of the leek. I use an old handle to make the hole.

Gary is laid up at the moment. He uses an old petrol lawn mower to keep the paths around our end of the plot cut. He asked me to cut the grass, so I pushed his mower around in a few minutes. Then the wheel fell off. I need to fix it in the next few days before the mower is needed again.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Catching up

I've not been adding blog posts recently, but that doesn't mean the plot isn't thriving, it is.  The weather has been decidedly cold in April, with frosts at night and cold, wet days. May has had a warm, sunny spell, but now is back to cold and surprisingly windy for this time of year. The weather is a mess.

The broad beans are thriving, with flowers on many of them. They are where I grew potatoes last year and I must have missed a few as potatoes are springing up around them. I'm going to try leaving both plants where possible and see what I can harvest.

I have planted out cabbages and broccoli, covered with a net and with some slug pellets around it. The slugs and snails are quite bad this year. Yesterday I added some calendulas, or pot marigolds, under the netting as companion planting. I'm sceptical about this, but I had a few left over from planting at home so I thought I'd try it. They are supposed to repel slugs but even if they don't they will look good.

I've planted out three butter nut squashes and they have been attacked by slugs. I have just sown three more seeds at home in case the squashes succumb to the slugs, though they would be a bit late.

Parsnips are doing very well. My usual way of germinating them and growing them on in paper tubes has worked, though a few perished in the cold - I think I planted them out a touch early.

My first batch of sweetcorn is out and has also been attacked by slugs. The second batch is hardening off. I hope the staggered planting will give a longer harvest - let's see what happens.

Onions are looking strong, asparagus is quite good, but not prolific, maybe it's too cold for it. The fruit bushes are laden with flowers and embryonic fruit. It could be a great year again. I've taken plenty of rhubarb and more is growing again.

Climbing beans are through in pots and will be ready to harden off soon. I have the canes set aside to build a frame for them.

Leeks are almost big enough to plant out. They are looking particularly good this year.

It's not all good news. I sowed some beetroot and spring onions. Both showed small signs of sprouting but now there is nothing at all. I'm going to sow some more along with some carrots which I hope do better than last year.

I've been keeping the weeds down quite well this year. Last year, about now, it started to get away from me and then it is much harder to deal with weeds, especially if the ground dries out. Using a hoe in damp, soft ground is quick and pretty effective.

One area where the weeds are rampant is in the new hedge between the plots and the field. The young hedge is being swamped with cleavers. I've cleared it from behind my plot but it's spreading again. I can't spray it as that would risk killing the young hedge, I'll just have to try harder.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Potting and sowing

I planted four rows of onion sets a few days ago. Since then it has been warmish, with a couple of cold, but frost free nights and one day with a lot of rain.

I finished digging over the ground and pulled up some purple sprouting broccoli that were badly eaten and not producing any florets. The few remaining ones don't look good either.

The cabbage and broccoli sown at home are looking strong. The broad beans sown at home have all sprouted and I've taken them up to the plot to harden off in the cold greenhouse. The brassicas will follow as soon as they have their first proper leaves.

I sowed some leeks in a tray at home and the usual hairpins are pushing through the soil. A few have straightened up often with the seed case on the end of the green sprout which looks like a little hat. They will need potting on in a couple of weeks or so, as soon as they can be handled.

Today I've sown some sweetcorn, with some left as a backup, and some butter nut squash, again with some spares as a backup. I'll certainly sow more sweetcorn even if this batch all germinate but staggering it a bit might spread the crop a bit. I really like very fresh sweetcorn but when it all ripens at once it is too much to handle.

I have potted many of the flowers into small pots and today I sowed lobelia and asters which both need some heat to germinate.