Thursday, 28 February 2008

Legumes brassicas and alliums

A fine afternoon tempted me up to the allotment. I wanted to build a simple frame to support sweet peas. I bashed a couple of short posts into the ground and screwed a long post to each. This way the long posts are not in the ground so they won't rot away. At the end of the season I can take them down and store them for next year. The short posts are old and can be discarded. I strung a wire across between the posts, anchored to the ground at each end. When the sweet peas are ready to plant I'll add some string supports from the top wire for each plant.

Earlier we planted savoy cabbage seeds and some more broad beans, both in individual pots, at home. The last broad beans have grown too fast and become leggy, so these new ones will go outside almost as soon as they show. The first broad beans, sweet peas and some leeks have gone up to the allotment, into the new greenhouse. The weekend is forecast to have very strong winds, so once they have passed the broad beans will go into the ground. The sweet peas will be a couple of weeks yet and the leeks even longer.

Jean planted a lot of flower seeds for our garden so space on window sills is tight. We tried to grow parsnips last year but not one came up, so we are trying something different. We have sown some seeds onto damp newspaper, covered with a propagator lid. If it works we will transplant each seedling into a fibre pot. When they are ready to plant out we will cut the bottom out and plant the whole pot. If you disturb the roots they split and don't grow well.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Take a leek

The leeks have sprouted. They push through the compost in a big loop and eventually they stand up. The tiny green spikes have the seed case stuck on top, like crinkled helmets. If you look very closely they are already perfect tiny leeks with white bases and a dark green stems. Jean potted them into small pots, fifty plants in all.

The spare room had trays of broad beans in the window. They have burst upward and and are in need of holding back to stop them growing too lanky, so they have gone outside. We can bring them in if they need some protection from frost, but otherwise they are hardening off before planting out. They could probably stand a frost, especially close to the house, but I don't want to lose them all.

Moving the beans outside has made space for the leeks. They too are quite tough and will go outside before long, making space for the seeds that will be sown in March

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Wandering garlic

The garlic has moved. Not by itself you understand, it has been moved. It was happily growing scattered across many of the beds, planted without a plan. But now there is a plan and the garlic is in the way, so it has moved. I hope it's happy in its new home.

The shelves are in the greenhouse. They are removable wooden frames, to keep the space flexible, covered with wire mesh left from the fencing to stand the trays and pots on. The mesh will let light through and keeps the shelves lightweight.

The broad beans planted at home are romping away. Each pot had two beans in it just in case, and every bean has germinated. They were in pots that now seem too small - roots were bursting out of the bottom - so the strongest bean in each pot got potted on into bigger pots.

The leeks are sprouting, so the growing season really is under way. Bring it on!

The next few nights are forecast to have hard frosts, maybe -8˚C, so I have moved a pot with holly seeds in it into a very exposed spot. I want to frost them to help them to germinate, a process known as stratifying. A couple of holly bushes in the hedge would be very welcome, even if they will take many years to grow.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

There she grows

The broad beans have started to emerge. They look a bit puny until you compare them with the seed leaves of many other plants, then you realise they are really strong. We'll plant some more beans in about a month to stagger the arrival of the crop, otherwise we will be under a foot of beans all at once.

The next set of seeds went in today. We planted sweet peas in pots and half of our leeks in a tray, to start indoors. It is a touch early, hence holding back some of the leeks, but as spring arrives sooner each year we could be fine. (We can't stop global warming now, so let's make the most of it). Leeks grow slowly and can stand in the ground quite well, so staggering the planting to spread the crop has no real effect.

In the green house I've started to build the racks to mount the shelves on. We should have a fair bit of room. The sun was out today and the air very still, so it was very warm for early February. The greenhouse was positively toasty. I'm slightly worried that things will fry in there.

Jean turned the soil on the empty beds to help get them ready for planting, even though that's some way off yet. There were still quite a lot of weed roots that came out, especially bind weed and couch grass. We planted garlic cloves last year, a bit randomly and we're regretting it now. Many of the beds have garlic shooting up in them and it will get in the way, so I tried moving some to see if they survive. I don't want to lose the garlic - it is so sweet compared to shop-bought stuff.

The asparagus bed has been deep dug with a trailer-load of horse manure dug into it. This was nearly the last chance to get it weed-free and it seems pretty good now. I'm looking forward to the plants arriving so we can get them on their way.

Gary was there working hard. He stopped to say he had been to Wilkinson's where he had bought some asparagus plants for half what I paid and some plastic tunnels for £5. It is surprising what they sell and it is often very cheap.

The growing season is starting.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Broadly speaking

Norman, the chap on the next plot, gave us some of his ripened broad beans to plant last year. Jean planted about a third of them, two to a pot. They are all sat on the kitchen windowsill and I can hardly wait to see if they grow. Norman has grown beans from his own saved seed for years, so they should be adapted to the local environment - that's evolution at work.

The shrubs in our garden got a good pruning. I suddenly realised that we might plant some of them as cuttings, even though it's not the best time of year. If they grow we could add forsythia, buddleia and cornus to the hedge in the allotment.