Sunday, 31 May 2009

Blog and a net

We popped up to the plot to check the greenhouse, especially to water stuff in it because it has been quite hot. All was well and there was a note from Kim and Andy who are one of our newer plot holders. Kim is suggesting that we have a blog for the whole site. Why not? I sent her an email pointing to this blog. I would contribute to a joint one but keep this one going as my diary.

While we were there I covered our cabbages with some netting. We bought the netting and canes from the Kenilworth Avenue Allotment Society. Jean wanted some seed compost and we asked for John Innes No1, but they don't keep it. They say loam based seed and cutting compost is much more popular so we bought some of that. Lets see what Jean thinks of it.

Friday, 29 May 2009

A warm day tempts plants out

The ground is very warm, if dry, and the sun is forecast to be out for days, so it seems like a good time to plant stuff out. Gary added two courgettes to the two we bought. I dug the ground over and added a lot of the new soil conditioner from the council give-away. I planted each courgette on a little mound with a moat around it, though these moats will not be maintained at the tax-payers' expense.

Jean sowed some more carrots seeds, this time in a new plot near the spring onions. The planned layout of the plot, by the way, has just about gone to pieces, but I don't really mind. This is not a planned event with a timetable and a budget, so tearing up the plan hardly matters. The carrots got a lot of water before being sowed and a small amount after. The leeks planted yesterday look great, with a good damp bit of silt in the bottom of each hole. We have planted them too far apart so we can infill with the remaining leeks when they are big enough.

Jean also planted out most of our remaining tomatoes. We grew them to use in the greenhouse in a grow bag and the ones we planted there are fine, so the remaining ones can go out. If the summer is a warm one they will be fine outside. We didn't expect to plant these out so we had to find a spot for them, but this is easier that I thought because we are growing smaller numbers of most things, so there are a few little spaces dotted around. This will help too with finding a space for the squashes that have germinated in their pots and the celeriac that Rob has offered us.

The yellow winter onions are really fattening up nicely. The white ones bolted so we dug them up and we have been eating them like spring onions, but so far the yellow ones are very good.

I expect to have to water again in a few days, especially the courgettes.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Watering in leeks

We spent a pleasant couple of hours at the plot today. The ground is very dry, the rain we had seemed quite a lot but the warmth and especially the wind has dried everything out. We took up another batch of spinach sown in pots and the next batch of spring onions pricked out into cardboard tubes and pots (we ran out of cardboard tubes). These will stay in the greenhouse until they are big enough to go out.

We planted the first batch of leeks from the greenhouse into the ground. We used the latest gadget to plant them - a broken hoe handle sharpened into a long dibber. I painted a couple of rings on it to show how deeply the dibber has been pushed in. I made a series of holes and Jean dropped the leeks in. Ones with long roots had them cut shorter first. I then followed around and filled each of the holes with water. This washes some fine silt into the hole which we didn't fill in any more. I then watered just about everything else on the plot. Meanwhile Jean finished the weeding, well for now.

The asparagus is sending out shoots that I will leave to grow so it can build up its strength for next year. Extra water will help it on its way. Our carrots are a complete flop. The few that have come up are disappearing and I don't know why. Other things are doing fairly well, cabbages have been nibbled but the CDs have stopped that, broad beans are flourishing, spinach is growing well, the yellow onions are fattening nicely. Some of the garlic have bolted; I nipped off the flower heads, I don't know if this will help. We have a couple of courgette plants in the greenhouse. I wanted to let them get a bit bigger before they go out, but as we were leaving I realised that they each have six small flower buds on them. We must plant them very soon. We need to also get the remaining tomatoes out and see about sowing some more carrots.

I have used quite a bit of the water in our tanks and there's no prospect of rain either to water the plot nor top up the tanks. I might have to resort to the tap yet.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


We watched the Jenson Button fairytale get even longer (if you're not sure what that is he won the Monaco Grand Prix). We then went out to do an hour's weeding. I think weeds are buoyant; as soon as it rains and there is water in the ground they float to the surface.

Yesterday Gary told me that, after a short illness, his wife had died. I'm very sad for such a nice bloke. He clearly put all his energy into his plot, there's not a weed to be seen nor a plant out of place.

We have two more runner beans that have appeared in their pots. The two that are out are getting eaten, I think I need some netting to cover things. No sign of the squashes germinating yet, but the much warmer weather might help. The two courgettes we bought are growing well and I think they may be ready to go out soon. Our leeks are still a bit small to plant out, but at least their allocated space has been weeded.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Know your onions

We planted some winter onions last year, some white and some yellow. The white ones have bolted, so we have pulled them up and laid them out to dry. We'll try a few of the smaller ones as salad onions and see if the bigger ones will dry out and stay firm. The yellow ones still look good, with some forming good sized bulbs.

We weeded our carrots, they are looking feeble and not too many of them. I really hoped we would get some carrots, so I'm wondering if we should plant some more. The rain has helped the weeds to flourish so we need to have a couple of solid weeding sessions. We looked at the leeks to see if they were ready to plant out and the answer was clearly 'not yet'.

I took the last asparagus crop for this year. It is delicious and I'd like to take more, but this is the first year to harvest it and I need it to build up for the years to come. Patience is required to grow asparagus.

We collected four bags of soil improver from the council today. They took away our pernicious weeds, composted them and gave us back some lovely stuff.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Out they go

After a change of plan we returned to the allotment this afternoon to plant out the things we saw this morning. Jean planted a row and a half of spring onions out. They do look a bit odd in their cardboard tubes but we hope this is the best way to get them growing to a size to harvest quickly. the little ring of cardboard above the soil give a little protection while they are small, but the cardboard below the ground just melts away so there is no restriction to their roots. Last year we grew spring onions by sowing them them in a tray and then planting them out in clumps. This was OK, but having them as separate plants will be interesting. We have used a similar process for our parsnips and they look great now. It works so well we might give the same process a try with carrots, which, like parsnips, don't like their roots disturbed.

I quickly built a wigwam from canes for our runner beans to grow up. Last year I built a frame with a plastic mesh for the beans to climb. I had to add extra string for each bean to grow up because the mesh was too short. The frame was fastened down with wire guy lines pegged with big wooden pegs. When the beans were in full bloom the wind broke the frame and it blew down. This time we're growing fewer bean plants and the wigwam is simple enough to hold them.

Jean planted out the cabbages, some spinach and and a few of extra peas, all of which look strong. I added some dangling CD over the spinach and cabbage to keep the birds off, lets hope they work.

After the rain

After weeks of dry weather it has rained properly. The dry spell was often windy which dried the ground even more deeply. There is more rain forecast over the next few days and we still need it. We checked out the greenhouse and watered all round. The tomatoes are doing well, cabbages are almost ready to go out, so are the first batch of spring onions. A couple of extra peas look ready to go out. The original peas are doing well. Another batch of spinach is ready to face the outside world - the first batch is struggling and we haven't got close to taking any to eat. The first runner beans are ready to go out, but I haven't built the frame to support them yet so they will have to wait for a few days.

The plums are beginning to swell. The two small trees we have look covered in tiny fruits. I think we might need to thin a few of them to get a better crop. The rest of the fruit bushes all look to be flourishing, with the raspberries now covered in flower buds. Strawberries are forming with still masses of flowers so a good crop looks likely.

The broad beans are covered in flowers, with no sign of blackfly yet. Some lettuce are showing and the carrots are still sprouting. The parsnips are doing very well, I think the rain has helped them a lot. One or two of the winter onions are forming proper bulbs, but some have bolted to form a flower, probably under the pressure of being too dry. I took the flower spike off but the bulb might not be as good as the ones that didn't bolt.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Scary teasels

Last Friday we had another batch of asparagus. I saw some in the supermarket yesterday - £16 per kilo. I think our delicious shoots will prove to be a cheap way to enjoy it and be super fresh too. We also potted some spare tomatoes and took them up to the greenhouse.

Today we planted our first peas, well mange tout. They were very healthy looking with big root balls in their pots. I put short stakes next to them to grow up. When they are bigger I expect them to lean on each other. Jean planted our remaining parsnips out. they look great, but we might have left it slightly too long because the roots had grown out of bottom of the cardboard tubes. They don't like their roots disturbed so they could be stump rooted.

I turned the compost heap. It is beginning to look like nice stuff. We now have an empty bin and at this time of year it won't get much green in it, so it needs covering to stop the weeds growing in it. I fixed a little hook to the greenhouse door so it will stay open in a breeze. The hook was fixed to the old greenhouse door and since I rebuilt it I've been meaning to fix the hook and kept leaving it at home.

I used some old bamboo canes to string up a line over a few of the growing plants. I hung old CDs from the strings as bird scarers. We did this last year and it worked well. When they blew down the crops got nibbled, so I'm depending on them again.

Jean planted some teasels at the back of the site. we'll plant some at home too. They look great and the birds love the seeds. Back at home Jean sowed some more beetroot seeds in pots. They'll go up to the greenhouse next time we go.