Wednesday, 9 July 2008

It stopped raining for five minutes so....

It actually stopped raining long enough for me to pop up to the plot on the way home from work yesterday and do a bit of weeding, something that proves much easier after a bit of rain I have to admit. It’s surprising what 45 mins weeding can achieve because afterwards the paths looked almost clear which gave the plot a much nicer look to it.

My other reason for popping up there was to collect some salad leaves for dinner. I never got round to thinning out the salad which has led to some pretty congested rows but I figure if I pull up whole baby plants rather than just cutting the leaves off so they re-grow that should have the same effect and allow us to eat the ‘thinnings’ so to speak.

(Those are sprouts in between the rows of salad, I ran out of space in the brasica bed so thought they could go in the gaps here…)

The brasicas we planted a few weeks ago have all taken well to their new home and are thriving. Almost better than that, my homemade netted cages are also all still standing which I’m quite pleased with.

The tomatillo we’re experimenting with (we’d never heard of it before we saw the seeds in a shop) seems to be doing well too, or at least one of the two plants is, so best concentrate on that one for now…

It looks like it’s going to rain from today all through to Sunday according to the weather forecast so this could have been the only plot time we get this week, fingers crossed for another break in the clouds soon…

Sunday, 6 July 2008

First spuds of the year and some baking...

It’s been pretty wet here this weekend but we managed to get up the plot on Saturday to pick the first load of salad leaves dinner and have a little look at what was under the two rows of early potatoes.

It was lovely to have the first spuds of the year although we’re probably going to leave the rest of the rows in for a couple more weeks as there were some nippers who looked like they could grow a bit more before we unearth them.

As you can see we also found another big batch of courgettes which prompted us to give some of the recipe ideas you all suggested after our last post. The two we decided to try first were the Courgette, Tarragan and Lemon bread suggested by VP from Veg Plotting and the Courgette Cake from Lucy over at Smallest Smallholding.

As you can see they both turned out looking rather yummy. We had to try a slice of the cake while it was still warm as it smelt so good and can report that it does indeed taste just as good as it looks. We’ve resisted the urge to try the bread as we’re planning to have some for dinner with some lovely thick soup.

Thanks for all the other suggestions, we’ve logged them down and will give lots of them a go over the next few weeks and let you know how we got on.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

What to do with courgettes...

It's started, the courgette glut! We're now harvesting two or three courgettes every couple of days and the number are only going to increase once all six plants start producing...

So, I was wondering, what do people 'do' with courgettes? We've put them in pasta sauces, cooked them with tinned tomatoes as a side dish and even cut them lengthways and roasted them in the oven. But there must be more to do with them surely...

I'm sure I saw Jamie Oliver slicing them up really thin and putting them in a salad while still raw. Has anyone tried that or got any other good suggestions on what to do with them?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

First jam of the year!

Last year we made a couple of batches of homemade jam using fruit we bought in supermarkets and wistfully dreamed of the time we'd be able to make it from our own allotment grown produce. Fast forward about eleven months and here we are. Jam!

We managed to harvest approx 3lbs of strawberries on Sunday morning which we turned into five jars of jam with the addition of a few raspberries we picked at the same time. As jams go it's a little on the runny side, which I think has something to do with strawberries being low in natural pectin, but it's defiantly still jammy and tastes lovely!

This little lot is what we managed to bring home with us from tonight’s quick watering trip. Some more strawberries, a nice load of raspberries and the first few blackcurrants of the season. There's also some rather large courgettes as you can see which seemed to have grown in super quick time since we were last up there on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

We're back!

Oooops... Sorry about that, we kind of vanished there for a bit didn't we. I'm not quite sure what happened really, the weather was a bit pants for a while and we were mega busy for a couple of weeks, then the plot suddenly seemed to have got away from us a bit and I kind of buried my head in the sand and got disillusioned about it all.

We seemed to suddenly hit a brick wall where our lack of space at home to start things off coupled with the dodgy weather, busy life (it turns out it's not ideal to plan on get married the same summer you start an allotment) and ever growing weeds meant we seemed to be smack bang in the middle of the growing season proper with a plot that had far more weeds than veg and no time or dry weather to do anything about it. Because of this I lost the will to write the blog or even turn the PC on and read other peoples because to do that would be to admit things were going wrong and I'd been so proud of the start we'd made. Of course with hindsight that’s half the point of allotment blogging, to document your failure as much as your success, so I've given myself a good talking to and we're back, ready to continue getting things wrong just as much as we get the right.

But anyway, enough of that, now we're in the second half of June and a lot of hard work in the last couple of weeks has seen us regain control of things to a degree where it's become less embarrassing and more fun again. Most plants are in, except the root veg which we seem to have run out of space for at the moment, and we've even started eating things we've grown.

Probably most impressive (at least they get the most comment from other plot holders) are the onions. Melanie's expert planting coupled with the raking in of some Growmore just prior to that seems to have created some fantastic looking onions. We just can't wait to start picking them now.

We seem to be doing ok with the courgettes too, although they haven't quite spread out as much as I was expecting (I'm sure the seed packet said leave 4-5 feet between plants) there's fruit coming on all plants and we've eaten four already with plenty more on the way.

The corn is doing well too and looks like it's going to provide some lovely cobs later in the year. there's a second sowing behind this larger front lot too which will stagger the produce a little with any luck.

The spuds are doing ok too, I'm a little paranoid that I've not earthed them up enough and we'll die from eating poisonous tubers, but the plants look healthy and quite a few of them are flowering now. A couple of other plot holders have dug up some of their first earlies this week so we may try digging up a plant at the weekend as an experiment just to see what’s down there.

We've kind of abandoned the peas this year, I never got on top of the seed sowing and there were so many other things that needed doing. We've got some sugar snap and mange tout in there that have grown but there's never going to be large enough quantities to provide anything other than a small taste. The runner beans were another thing that almost got left too late but we have some in the ground as you can see and they're doing ok, we've got more at home that have just sprouted which should be ready for planting out in a week or so. It feels horribly late to still be growing seedlings but fingers crossed they'll all catch up and we'll get a crop, even if it's a bit late. There's some French beans down the end of this bed too, again started late but we'll see what happens...

Sorry for the horrible pic here, it was getting late and sun was very low. This is the salad bed, and seems to be doing ok, again it was late getting started but now there are eight or so rows of various salad leaves all growing nicely. They'll need thinning out at the weekend I think but other than that they're good.

This was my project last weekend, get some brasicas in the ground. We ran out of time and space for growing these from seed so I went along to a local nursery to pick up some plants (a few different cabbages, some cauliflower, kale and broccoli) first thing then dodged the rain to get them in the ground. I was quite pleased with the netting too as it looks pretty sturdy I think.

While all of that could make it look like a huge success some parts of the plot are less impressive. The strawberry patch we inherited has been pretty much left to go wild as you can see which loos horrible but we simply didn't have the time to keep it tidy this year as well as do everything else. The one good thing is the weeds don't seem to have stopped the fruit growing and we've harvested probably around 10lbs so far, most of which has been frozen ready for jam making.

Also a horrible mess is the fruit tunnel, it's suffered the same fate as the strawberry patch and the confined space has made the weeds even more impossible to deal with. We're still getting a crop of raspberries in there but actually getting at them isn't easy and knocking this all down and rebuilding it with more space and a paved path through the middle this is defiantly number one on my jobs for the Autumn.

The wood chip that covers about two thirds of the plots path is also not working quite as well as hoped. Weeds are still growing through it and keeping the paths clear was proving a pain till I decided to abandon it for a few weeks and concentrate on getting all the veg in and started. To be fair to the wood chip it's kept the paths clearer than if it hadn't been there at all but I think there just wasn't enough of it to be able to stop all the weeds. It's another lesson learned and perhaps we'll collect it all up and do something different next year, we'll see.

Most embarrassing of all the messy bits however is the state of the grass around the plot. Although not technically 'on' the plot it looks a state and I'd love to be able to keep it nice and tidy. But, with no power point my mower and strimmer from home won't work so I'm trying to keep an eye out for someone using a petrol strimmer or something so I can ask to borrow it. Till then I try to ignore it but it does worry me that it's such an eye sore.
So that's that. All up to date and now we're back in blogging mode we'll be back doing smaller updates as often as we used to. Thanks to everyone who left messages asking where we were and checking we were ok, they're much appreciated. Now I'm off to catch up on all your blogs, speak to you soon!

Friday, 9 May 2008

A big plot weekend planned.

It's been over a week since the last update but despite appearances things have been pretty busy at this end. Up at the plot we've been using the sudden attack of summer to try and regain control of an allotment that had got a bit unruly after the grotty weather which, along with some visits to family, had limited out plot time somewhat in the last couple of weeks.

With a beautiful sunny weekend ahead we're hoping to get a million jobs done to really kick off the growing season. Among the general weeding and clearing that still needs doing we're hoping to make our first raised bed and sow a load of salad stuff in it, plant out the courgettes, finish rescuing the strawberry patch from the knee high weeds that have devoured it, setup the bean and pea supports, and sow some of the root veg.

I've been looking forward to this weekend all week as it's the first time in ages good weather is going to coincide with us not having loads of other things to do which means we can finally spend a good long time on the plot catching up. Fingers crossed I'll have a big long post with loads of pictures on Monday to show you all how it went.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Great Tomato Project 2008 Update...

As you can see from the above picture things are going pretty well so far with TGTP 08. The first batch of seedlings have all been transplanted into their own pots now where they'll hopefully grow on ready to be gradually hardened off in a few weeks time. The observant amongst you will have noticed that picture also contains our first load of sweet corn which is doing well so far as well as some of Melanie's Basil in there somewhere too along with a few Tomatillo, and an Aubergine as well.

Two of the tomatoes didn't germinate unfortunately but I'd kept some seed back in the event of problems so I've now re-sown those varieties along with the second stage of the project, the cherry varieties, in the freshly empty propagator.

The rest of the seedlings seem to be doing well too, here's the peppers and chillies all growing merrily in the spare room. I've got a couple of the larger tomatoes hardening off outside simply due to lack of room but they seem happy enough so far and they're joined in the plastic greenhouse with some Borage, a load of courgettes and a single marrow (need to sow another one me thinks) as well as the huge number of flower seeds Melanie seems to have sown.

While I'm at it, we're on the look out for one of those small 4 tier mini plastic greenhouses to house our ever growing number of plants but they seem a bit on the expensive side at £30 in our local garden centre. Does anyone know of a cheaper place to buy them from?

Friday, 25 April 2008

Scary direct sowing

Being still quite new at this vegetable growing lark I'm quite cautious when it comes to sowing directly into the ground. Last year in the back garden I started almost everything inside before potting them on, hardening them off and planting out. The only thing I didn't do like that was carrots, and guess which crop was least successful..?

I know in reality I simply can't start everything off inside, not only do we not have space it'd also cost a small fortune in compost. So I'm aiming to force myself to sow some things directly into the soil this year. My only question is what?

I planted some more sugar snap and mange tout peas directly into the ground a week or so ago on the other side of the little pea wall I built and obviously things like carrots, beetroot etc need to be sown direct, but what else is safe to do like that and expect decent results?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


The one thing (other than extra hours in the day) we've needed ever since we got our plot was some timber. Free timber to be exact since that's the allotmenting way and money, unfortunately, doesn't grow on trees. So, imagine the excitement at Growing Our Own towers this week when a friend of ours who sells Spa Pools emailed to say he had some pallets for us if we could find a use for them.

A couple of days later and this was awaiting us when we came home from work...

A few hours and a lot of effort with hammer and crowbar later we have a much more manageable pile of wood all ready for make everything from compost bins to raised beds. While digging and preparing the remaining beds not to mention sowing seeds will take priority over the far less urgent carpentry but once that’s all done in the next couple of weeks expect to see some first attempts at construction.

So thanks Ed, and if anyone wants a Spa Pool then Monarch Spas is the place to go...

Monday, 21 April 2008

Anyone seen the sun?

Aside from the progress with the spuds I mentioned on Saturday it was a pretty slow weekend thanks to some thoroughly cold and gloomy weather in the Gloucestershire area. That didn't seem to stop the seeds we sowed last weekend from making an appearance though.

At least one of most things has come through now, we're only waiting on the vegetable spaghetti and the tomatillo to pop up which I guess isn't surprising given their preference for warmer climates. The courgettes have fairly shot on though and most will be able to be potted on in the next couple of days all being well, the corn is doing well too, 10 out of 15 germinated so far.
No sign of any tomatoes from The Great Tomato Project 2008 (from now on to be called TGTP 08 I think...) but they only got sown 5 days ago so I'm perhaps getting a tad impatient with them. The second batch, the cherry varieties, should be going in later this week when we have some propagator space and with any luck the weather will have warmed up a bit by then as I'm sure it's still pretty cold even in a propagator at the moment.

I was pleasantly surprised last night to discover this blog had been given it's first award. dND from the lovely From Here To Eternity has awarded Growing Our Own an 'E for Excellent' which was very nice of her. I think the rules are I now have to award it to any blogs I feel deserve the accolade, an almost impossible task when you consider the quality out there. I'd love to award it to everyone linked on my blogroll as they're all ones I read avidly but if I had to pick just one I'd award it to Fork it... A Gloucester Allotment. Not only is it a great read it's also the first allotment blog I ever read and the one that inspired me to try my hand at blogging.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

A good job jobbed

This empty array of cardboard mountains means all the potatoes are now in! They seem to have been sat around the house chitting since the dawn of time taking up space that I really wanted to be using for seeds so it was something of a relief this morning to finally get the last three rows planted in-between the rain showers.

Still no sign of the earlies we put in the ground a couple of weeks ago but fingers crossed they’re burrowing their way towards daylight in their own time.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


I know it's a little off topic but I was tagged by Lucy at the fantastic Smallest Smallholding and it's kinda fun to do these things so here goes...

What Was I Doing 10 Years Ago?
Hmmm 10 whole years ago I'd have been 20 and nearing the end of the final year of my HND Computing course. If I remember rightly that was a pretty frustrating year as I'd just spent a year on work placement getting paid to do the kind of work I was now not getting paid to do at Uni. This coupled with the fact that I'd kind of lost interest in the whole 'learning' side of the Uni thing led to a scarily large amount of skipped lectures and rushed work which resulted in me scraping through my final exams relying on luck as much as intellect.

My To Do List for Today/Diary of What I Actually Did
Since it's only lunchtime it's perhaps a bit early to judge how successful I'll be with my to do list today but I'd like to get to the allotment after work (weather permitting) and plant the final row of second early spuds as well as dig as much of the main crop bed as possible ready for planting tomorrow. After that my sole objective is to have dinner and relax. Surely that can be achieved.
As for what I've done so far, I've got up, fed the kittens, eaten breakfast, removed the kittens from various places they're not supposed to be, watched the end of a C4 documentary about the Arc of the Covenant, driven the 20 minute journey to work and then worked till lunch, which is now.

Snacks I Enjoy
I like most snacky things, sweet and savoury I'm not fussy. I guess if we're getting specific I'd have to say dark chocolate digestives, salted peanuts, salt and vinegar crisps and lovely fresh crusty bread and jam.

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire
The obvious for a start, buy a lovely house with plenty of land out in the country somewhere.
Secure the financial future of family and friends.
Quit my job and spend my time working towards a more self sufficient lifestyle.
Buy Melanie and I a fantastic car each (running on homemade BioFuel of course).
Buy Cheltenham Town FC and fund their rise to the Premiership.
Travel extensively (not very self sufficient I admit but I'd love to see more of the world)

That'll do for the first few months... ;)

Three of My Bad Habits
I'm sure Melanie should be writing this bit... If she were I know she'd put the fact that I can sometimes take a lot of nagging to get things done as my number one bad habit. Personally I think I'm a lot better than I was, but that may just prove how bad I used to be...
Other than that its hard to say, I guess I'm a bit of a procrastinator at times and I'm terrible at keeping up exercise routines for longer than a few days. I'm sure I have a million other bad habits too but I'd hate to bring them up if people haven't noticed them for themselves. Never remove the mystery and all that... lol.

Five Places I Have Lived
I lived the first 23 years of my life in Cheltenham after which I moved a few miles up the road to Gloucester where I've been for the last 7. As you can see, I'm very much a local lad and to be honest I wouldn't have it any other way. There's very few places I've been that have made me want to move away from the beauty of the Cotswolds.
It'd be nice to live outside of suburbia somewhere more rural but I've no desire at the moment to move miles away, unless anyone out there is selling a nicely sized cottage with plenty of land in a nice location for less than 100k.... ;)

Five Jobs I Have Had
Office Clerk at Sainsburys - My first ever job (outside of a paper round) and I loved it, only did Saturdays and one evening a week but it was great fun.
Usher at Cheltenham's Odeon Cinema - The best job I've ever had and probably ever will. Getting paid to watch films with a little bit of showing people to their seats beforehand and cleaning up the spilt popcorn afterwards to fill in the gaps between films. What could be better? Fantastic place to work with some great people, loved it.
Supporting Artist/Extra - More of a paid hobby than a job but defiantly one of the more interesting things I've ever done. While most of the work I did was appearances in the background of BBC's Casualty (including a line in one episode.. fame eh!) I also got my face on screen in a Jenifer Love Hewitt film amongst others.
Director of my own company - Not a huge financial success by any means but the business I set up with a friend after leaving Uni certainly taught me lots and it was well worth having a go at.
Computer Programmer at various places - My 'real' job, the one that keeps me off the allotment every day. I've found I'm not really a computer person, a conclusion that comes perhaps 15 years too late, but as jobs go its ok and I enjoy the problem solving nature of it.

There we go, probably far more than you ever wanted to know about me and if you've read this far then congrats!

As for who to tag, I'm going to go for...

VP over at Veg Plotting
Veg Monkey from Vegmonkey and the Mrs
Gloucester Womble from Fork It... A Gloucester Allotment
Rebsie at Daughter Of The Soil
and Nome at NomeGrown

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Playing catch up...

While the weather held out to be far better than expected over the weekend We didn't get to spend as much time at the allotment as we'd have liked. In fact it was only the ten minutes it took to plant out the sugar snap and mange tout peas we had growing at home that we spent up there over the two days.

This didn't mean a lack of any progress at all however; Sunday afternoon saw a much needed sowing and re-potting session in the back garden. While Melanie filled up almost the whole greenhouse with trays full of flower seeds I spent a good couple of hours potting on the various tomato, pepper and chilli seedlings I had into pots big enough for them to live in till they're planted out into their final homes and then catching up with the all seed sowing that needed to be done.

In the propagator we have some Aubergine (Black Beauty), Sweet corn (Early extra Sweet F1), Marrow (Long Green Bush 2) and three kinds of Courgette (Parador, Defender and Covili). There's also a couple of more weird and wonderful veg in the form of some Vegetable Spaghetti and Tomatillo.

The other job we got done was to get the potatoes we're growing at home started off. With four tubs and a different variety in each (King Edward, Accent, Pink Fir Apple and Kerrs Pink) we're doing a bit of a taste test really to see if we fancy growing any of these in bigger quantities on the allotment next year.

Weather permitting we've got lots of work to do at the allotment this week, biggest job that needs jobbing is to dig the second potato bed and get the main crop spuds in the ground, they seem to have been chitting for months so we'll be glad to finally be rid of them cluttering up the house.

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Great Tomato Project 2008

It was a pretty rotten weekend weather wise so absolutely nothing got done on the plot. However, a little vegetable growing side project of mine meant that there is something to blog about after the weekend.

As if taking on a new allotment and filling it with veg wasn't enough work I've decided to have a bit of an experiment since we've got so much space. I've always known there was more to tomatoes than the bog standard red ones you get in the super markets but I'd never experienced any so I've come up with a tomato master plan...

I'm going to use one side of the plot (the back probably) and grow a load of different tomato plants along it using the handy chicken wire fence for support. I'm going to grow a few more normal varieties (the Sungella, Sub Arctic and Suncherry I’ve already started off) but the rest are going to be of the more weird and wonderful variety. Then, with any luck, come the summer I'll be able to collect the seeds of the ones that perform the best and use them again next year.

Thanks to the wonders of eBay I found a friendly supplier (O.V. Gillies) who supplies a wide selection of weird and wonderful tomato seeds in small quantities (three or four seeds per variety) perfect for what I want to do so I ordered a set each of her Heirloom and Cherry Surprise mix. Less than 48 hours later a lovely collection of seed packets fell through my letter box (see pic at top of post) all packaged and labelled with love and care along with an info sheet about tomato growing and even a few extra freebies in the shape of some Purple Mist sweet peppers, Diamond aubergines, a herb called Borage that I'd not heard of before and some flower seeds (Dianthus Chinensis/China Pinks).

With interesting sounding varieties like Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Prince, De-Barro black, Rouge d'Iraq, Banana Legs, Green Zebra and Red Zebra it's suddenly become the most exciting part of the growing year for me. I just hope I can manage to grow them...

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Just what we needed, wood chips!

Remember last week I was moaning about how the weeds on the paths were causing more trouble than the weeds in the beds? Well it seems the allotment Gods were listening, as I arrive at the plot on Monday night I was greeted by the sight of a huge pile of wood chippings had been delivered to the site during the day. Talk about good timing…

So, the last two evenings have been spent doing a huge weed of the paths, one section at a time, and then covering them in wood chips to create a much neater looking plot. See, about half done so far and I think it’s looking pretty good…

In the foreground there you can see my little pea wall made out of some chicken wire and posts I ‘liberated’ from my parents garage. I think we’re going to need about twice as much as that but it’s a start. I was going to put some of the peas we’ve got at home in as well but since we’re forecast snow for the weekend I figured best wait a few days and see what happens…

Monday, 31 March 2008


At last, a warm and dry day! After a day of torrential rain on Saturday our hopes for some plot time this weekend looked to be dwindling, however, we woke up Sunday morning to bright sunshine so we took the chance and spent some time at the allotment.

While there's still beds to be dug and paths to be weeded it seems wise to take this opportunity to get some stuff planted. Most important to get started were the early potatoes and the onion sets. So, while I took charge of the spuds Melanie get started with the onions.

With plenty of space left in the bed that’s got our garlic in she first raked in some general fertilizer, then got on her hands and knees and planted three long rows of Centurion and two smaller rows of red onions (the variety of which completely escapes me).

Over the other side of the plot I was happily digging a trench for the potatoes. I was planning one row of first earlies (Red Duke of York) and one of second earlies (Saxon), leaving the main crop to go in a separate larger bed in a couple of weeks time.

Once dug I took a leaf out of Gloucester Wombles (from the excellent Fork it... a Gloucester allotment) book and followed his idea of lining the trench with manure covered in shredded paper. Then I spaced the potatoes (in this instance the Red Duke of York) roughly 12 inches apart on top of the paper.

Next all that was left to do was fill the trench back in with soil and start on the next one. We actually had far too many of the Saxon so we've decided to intrude onto the main crop bed with a second row to save wasting them. That was a job for another day though and after a quick blitz of some of the path weeds we packed up and went home for lunch content that things were moving on again.

After lunch it was time to move some of the seedlings into the greenhouse to free up some space so in went the sugar snap peas and mange tout (you can just about see them from here) along with the red cabbage. The plan is to keep the door rolled up during the day and shut it at night just in case it gets a bit nippy. With any luck we'll get the peas planted out on the plot one night this week as they're big enough to go in now I think.

We also did some more sowing, including more tomatoes and Tatsy Grill peppers after hardly any germinated last time and we've started off some lettuce too. There a lot more ready to sow in the next couple of weeks but I think we're now up to date pretty much which means it was a good weekend all in all.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Fluffy pots...

Quick question for a Saturday morning, does anyone know why this happens? A lot of my seedlings have developed a distinctly fluffy covering to the compost. It doesn't seem to be harming the plants themselves but I'd like to know why it happens none the less... Any ideas?

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Back to the plot

It's been a hectic week or so since our last post, although not much of it has been allotment related. A combination of decorating, house guests, the weather and Easter has kept things pretty quiet on the vegetable front recently. Now all of that’s over though we're focused back on the growing season and even though the weather for the next five days looks like it's going to be nothing but rain we're hoping to get stuff done in any dry gaps that may appear.

The plot survived the storms intact, and the garlic is growing away nicely as you can see. There's still no sign of any carrots in the fleece tunnel which is disappointing but I guess they'll take longer to germinate planted straight into the ground. I’ve managed to spend forty minutes or so up there the last two nights and got another half a bed dug but I'll be glad when the clocks go forward next week and we get a dry weekend as it'd be nice to spend a few hours in one block up there doing jobs.

The one thing we have found though, that we hadn’t really thought about, is that although the weeds on the beds are being contained by the black plastic the paths are becoming covered in rampant weeds. Since we can’t afford to buy either bark chippings or hardwearing fabric to cover them it looks like the paths could turn into a bit of a battleground as we try to keep on top of the weeds. I spent most of my time up there tonight removing the largest of the thistles and dandelions, something I’ll do more of tomorrow with any luck.

Back at home a lot of the seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago have come through, as you can see most of the peas are awake now (and look far healthier in real life I promise) and a couple of the tomatoes have finally graced us with their presence. No sign of the peppers (Tasty Grill Red F1) yet but hopefully they'll be along soon.

All being well we're going to try getting the spuds and onions in the ground at the weekend, in fact we were hoping for some advice when it comes to potatoes. We're going to plant them in trenches but we've seen various different ideas of what to put in the trench to help them grow. One idea seems to be to put manure at the bottom covered with damp newspaper; another was to simply put kitchen waste in there. We've also got some potato fertilizer for use in some tubs at home so we could add that on the plot as well if it helps. What do you think? Do you have a proven recipe for potato success?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Some more sowing

We didn't get chance to visit the plot at all this weekend meaning we've still not been up since the worst of the storms hit last week. All being well though I'll get to spend half an hour or so up there tonight on the way home from work so that'll give me a chance to put things in order if there was much damage.

A weekend away from the plot didn't mean a weekend wasted however, while most of it was spent avoiding the rain by decorating our smallest bedroom there was time on Sunday to catch up with the sowing. The first planting of peas (Sugar Bon (snap) and Reuzensuiker Mangetout) went into some saved loo rolls while three varieties of tomato (Sub Arctic Plenty, Sungella and Suncherry Premium F1) were also started off in cells along with some lovely peppers (Tasty Grill Red F1). This spurt of activity pretty much filled the propagator as you can see (I can't wait to get all those spuds in the ground to free up some space!).

To make room for all that I planted out the red cabbage and bell peppers we'd started off a few weeks ago into their own pots so they can carry on doing their thing till it's time to start hardening them off in the greenhouse in a few weeks.

The weather is looking good this week so there should be plenty of chances to get some plot time in each evening gearing up to the weekend when things like onion sets and possibly some early potatoes should find their way into the ground.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Storm damage...

Managed to get up to the allotment yesterday evening on the way home just to check how it had survived the storm. It was actually pretty much intact, see...

Only the one bit of plastic had really been moved around and even that was still tethered by one corner so hadn't got lost. My little fleece tunnel had also survived intact, impressive as I'm not known for my DIY skills. So, I straightened everything out again in the ever present drizzle and came home.

Then, we woke up this morning to the sound of gales blowing around the house and were greeted by this when we looked out the back window...


Rather than spend ages picking it up so that it can get blown over again we've left it where it is and simply thrown the contents inside it to keep it weighed down till the wind blows itself out.


Monday, 10 March 2008

Not as wet as expected... Till now!

It seems like the BBC had everything a couple of days early in the end as we actually only got some drizzle on Saturday and one bout of rain on Sunday and this was after I'd gone to the effort of getting up extra early and made my way up to the plot for 9am Saturday morning.

In the end I managed to spend a couple of hours up there before the wind got up and it started to rain. At that point I figured it was time to come home before I got soaked, in hindsight I should have waited it out in the car as it didn't last too long but at least I got some things done. Along with a fair chunk of digging I managed to get some carrots (Early Nantes 2) sowed under a home made cloche.

After all the advice I got from my earlier post about all things cloche related I went for fleece as a cover which I stretched over three metal hoops. I also put another three hoops over the top pushing them through the fleece at ground level to help secure it and pegged the ends shut with bits of a broken twig. I thought it looked pretty good when I was done but I guess the proof will be in if it's still standing when I next get up there.

After wondering what all the fuss was about the weather over the weekend I've woken up to a Gloucester ravaged by wind and rain this morning so I'm a bit worried about what state the plot will be in now. I would put money on none of the black plastic still being on the plot much less still in place on the beds, I'm just hoping my little fleece tunnel survived. I think I'll pop and have a look on the way home, fingers crossed till then...

Friday, 7 March 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

It's always the way, you have a week of nice weather when you're stuck in the office then come the weekend, just when you want to be outside, the forecast is for nothing but rain. It looks like next week isn't going to improve much either, here's hoping it dries out before the next weekend; two wet ones in a row would seem a little unfair.

Here's the BBC Weather sites view on the next few days, depressing eh!

With any luck it won't be raining first thing Saturday morning and I can pop up to the plot early and do a bit of work before the ground gets too wet. Of course whatever happens there are still jobs to be done even in bad weather, there's a load of seeds due to be sown at home for a start so I'm sure we'll keep nice and busy.

What we need is an allotment with a retractable roof!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

A quiet weekend

We spent the weekend at friends in London which was lovely, but did mean no plot time for the first weekend since we took control (Addicts? Us?). We did manage a quick trip up there on our way home though, just to reset the black plastic yet again and check things were as we left them, which they were. I also managed to get up there after work today for half an hour before the light went which was enough time to dig over another third of a bed and have a chat with a couple of the guys where were up there doing the same thing. I got more done than I expected to in such a short time so I think I'll start doing that most days now the evenings are lightening up.

What made the trip doubly worth while though was the very first sight of proper growing veg on the plot! The garlic we planted two and a half weeks ago has all magically appeared at once giving two lovely rows of short but healthy looking shoots. I felt like dancing around cheering but thought that may get a few odd looks so I settled for a picture of one of the larger offerings...

Back home we've seen all the daffodils burst into bloom in the last few days and although not strictly vegetables (ok, not even close...) I couldn't help sneaking a quick pic of some of them onto the end of this post. It is spring after all.

Friday, 29 February 2008

A closer look at chitting...

I popped up to the allotment on the way home from work last night to check how our plastic sheeting was holding up and found that it had been blown around a bit by the wind since the weekend. It didn't take long to put it all back in place along with a few extra weights to try and keep it in place this time. Something tells me that come next winter we'll have to come up with a better way of keeping those sheets in place...

I was reading Soliman's excellent blog this morning and saw the fantastic close up pictures of his chitting potatoes and thought I'd have a go at something similar. When you have a proper look at those strange coloured shoots they're really quite beautiful. Well worth a closer look anyway.

Almost all the red cabbage seeds I planted at the weekend have come through now, 8 out of 12 to be precise. I've taken them out of the propagator now to try and stop them growing too fast, their place in the warmth will be taken by something else in the next day or to no doubt.