Monday 27 April 2009

A good weekends work

Waking up on Saturday morning to see rain pelting down wasn't the best start to a weekend. Thankfully things soon began to look up and by lunchtime I was up at the allotment sweating under the warm sun. It was one of those lovely plot sessions where I didn't feel like I was playing catch up or trying to control something that had gone wrong, instead I was able to potter around, do the jobs I needed too, have a general weed and come away feeling that for probably the first time in the 15 months we've been doing this everything was on track and going according to plan.

Among the jobs that got jobbed was the first sowing of some Swede, Turnips, Kohl Rabi and Chard. Not many of each as I'm going to try to sow these a few times throughout the season to try and avoid any kind of glut.

Also in the ground was the second sowing of sugar snap peas, another row of carrots and a few beautiful looking little gem lettuce plants from one of my plot neighbours. These are well ahead of the ones I sowed a couple of weeks ago meaning we should get to eat some earlier than expected which will be nice.

The carrots, beetroot, radish and lettuce/salad leaves I'd already sown have all sprouted with varying degrees of success. The radish, as expected, have done wonderfully as has one of the rows of carrots and the little gem lettuces. The second row of carrots, the beetroot and the salad leaves haven't exactly flourished leaving some patchy gaps in their rows which is a bit of a shame. Perhaps I'll sow into the gaps and see what happens...

The broad beans seem to be doing ok after their very slow start although the edges of their leaves look like they've been nibbled by something which is a puzzle. I don't know if they should be covered or anything as I'm new to broad beans but the plants look strong enough at the moment so I won't worry too much. I've also put in some wooden edging salvaged from my parent’s garden around the asparagus bed which you can see in the top of this pic.

The early spuds are also well on the way, each time I go up the plot there's more sprouting through needing to be earthed up. To be honest I'm not quite sure when to stop earthing up and just let them grow. I know last year I didn't do much earthing up at all as I was fighting fires elsewhere on the plot which meant we didn't perhaps get the crop we could have done so I want to get it right this year and I'm hoping somehow all will become clear at the time.

Back at home there's also a lot happening and the cold frame is now full to bursting after a mammoth sowing/potting on session on Sunday afternoon. A first sowing of all our summer beans are now in pots hopefully busy germinating. This year we're going for more variety than last year starting with a couple of climbing French beans (Fasgold and the exciting deep purple Blauhilde) as well as a lovely looking golden climbing bean called Goldfield. We’ve also started off a load of Wisley Magic runner beans, which we grew with great success last year, and a few dwarf beans called Borlotto Firetongue which I bought simply because of their amazing looking red pods. Also happy in their new home in the cold frame are the freshly potted on courgettes, marrows and squashes as well as a few cabbage which I've had been growing on the window ledges in the house.

That hasn't left the windows empty by an means, with the impending arrival of our new greenhouse we've had to rush sow some plants to fill it with so there’s a slightly late sowing of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chilli’s and melons still filling the window along side a first sowing of sweet corn which sprouted a tad quicker then expected.

Friday 17 April 2009

We're getting a greenhouse!

We're getting a greenhouse! We're getting a greenhouse! We're getting a greenhouse!


As you may have guessed from my excitement, we're getting a greenhouse. It's Melanie’s Dad's fault really, we went to visit him over Easter and he gave us a tour of his garden which includes a lovely greenhouse full of seedlings and stood there, in the warm amongst thriving tomato plants, greenhouse envy simply got the better of us.

Now don't get me wrong, we'd thought about getting one before, a few times actually, but a combination of the room it would require in the garden (we're not allowed to put one on the allotment), the cost, and a nagging worry that all this veg growing may just be a 'phase' we're going through, had put us off each time.

This time though, as we stood back in our own garden, tape measure in hand, and examined all the pros and cons once again it seemed suddenly far more possible. It wouldn't take up that much room really, and we don't actually 'do' much with the area of the garden we'd put it in anyway. My parents had given us some money for Easter which brought the price just about into our range and we've both realised now that growing veg has become a way of life rather than a temporary phase.
So we set to work scouring the internet till we found one we liked the look of and settled on this 6 foot by 10 foot one. The only snag is the 5 week waiting time for delivery (which will mean we'll not get the full benefit of it this year really) but it'll give us time to prepare the site and sort out the base we're going to stand it on.

Here's a pic of our back garden with the rough idea for the greenhouse location marked out with some spare wood (sorry the rest of the garden looks a bit of a mess, it's not had much done to it this spring as we've concentrated on the allotment).

It's not an ideal greenhouse location being so close to the fence which will mean that side won't get a huge amount of sun. But we want it to work with the garden rather than take over it and I figure if we use the fence side for any shelves and staging then we don't need to be growing much at ground level there anyway.

So now the wait for delivery begins. I'm spending the time mulling over the base options which is causing my some headaches. I know it comes with a steel base included but I don't want to sit that directly onto the soil so I'm thinking of laying a kind of concrete border about a foot wide to put it all on but I'm not sure. Does anyone out there have any ideas or opinions?

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Busy Planting

It's been a busy week or so up at the allotment with planting and sowing in full swing. We've almost got all our main crop potatoes in with a row each of Cara and King Edwards in the ground and one more of King Edward still to go in this week. On the other side of the plot, next to the early spuds (in the foreground of the below pic) we've got a couple of rows of carrots and one each of beetroot, radish, salad leaves and little gem lettuce. After hardly direct sowing anything last year I've taken the plunge and am going to try and do far more that way this year, if nothing else it will stop the house getting overrun with seed trays.

The radish is the first through the soil with a decent number already showing their faces a week after sowing.

Down near the asparagus bed, in the bottom half of the plot, we've put in the 28 parsnips we started off at home. These survived the chitting/potting in loo rolls/planting out process fantastically, I wish we'd had more loo rolls so I could have done a few more really. Assuming the pests don't get them we're on course for a lovely crop later in the year all being well.

Next to those we've put our onions, roughly 250 of them (including 30 shallots) which seems a huge amount now I'm typing it but we found that we'd got through the 120 we did last year by February so thought we'd do more this year and see if we can be as close to self sufficient in these as possible.

Just when I'd given up hope of any broad beans there's signs of life in the seeds we put in a few weeks ago. Not all have come through (yet?) but it looks like we'll get 6 or 7 plants which has to be good as they were a bit of a last minute addition to the plot plan (he says as if there's actually a plan of some kind to the madness...).

With any luck, weather permitting, we'll get some of our pea varieties sown this week as well as that last row of spuds and then we'll be scarily on track for the year. Hope everyone else is doing well too...