Plot update

11 March 2015

Photos from last week, but already an improvement…

More photos as digging and preparing continues.


Before photos

1 March 2015

Here’s some photos I took on 25 October 2014, the weekend I took over plot 96 at Spital Farm allotments.

You can see that the plot is overgrown with ground cover. There’s a few rows of old broad beans. Generally it was in good shape for a plot that hadn’t been regularly tended for a year or so.

Later in the week, I’ll post more photos showing how far I’ve come clearing the site.


Newspaper plant pots

28 February 2015

The move from Devon to Oxfordshire was minus lots of plastic pots and other gardening paraphernalia. All replaceable, was my thinking. Anyway, the removers strictly speaking wouldn’t take pots or other “soiled” contents as we were going in to store.

At this end, I’d thought make my own pots. After seeing the price of those fancy plant pot makers, thoughts turned to papier mache or using flour and water glue.

To my great surprise today, Google came up with the excellent YouTube tutorial above on turning newspaper into biodegradable pots, ideal for seedlings.

This afternoon I turned out 20 or so. Unfortunately, all those Saturday papers I’d save had been binned by the other half.  So, today’s travel sections was sacrificed and the sports section will follow once I’ve had a chance to read it.

tomato plants

I’ve started out with two varieties of tomato – Sweet Million and Zuckertraube. I’ll save Gardeners’ Delight and Moneymaker for the football and rugby pages. (Notice the recycled in trays from our office move.)

Broad beans

Meanwhile, I’ve sown Masterpiece Green Longpod broad beans. As this is my first year in the new allotment, I’m not sure how broad bean and other legume seeds survive if direct sown. Back in Devon, direct sown might as well have been fed direct to mice.

 


I heart my allotment…

10 June 2013

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From my allotment…

You can see the sea. Or, at least the Bristol Channel.

On a clear day, Exmoor is visible to the east. Pop your head over the hedge and there’s a view of Dartmoor.

It’s a peaceful place. Many days, I’m a lone allotmenteer. My accompaniment is singing blackbirds, swooping swallows, the odd pheasant and occasional high flying buzzard.

Sometimes, there is the interruption of tractors, motorcycles or cars. But, we’re without the constant drone of traffic.

More disruptive are strimmers and other lazy people’s tools.

Me? I’m hardcore. All done by hand. Digging, weeding and cutting: all back, shoulders and ibuprofen.

And, when I have company it’s great to down tools for ten minutes or so to discuss your uncooperative onions, composting tips or whatever’s going on in the village.

For a couple of months, frozen ground or Atlantic storms mean Sunday is spent on the sofa rather then hacking away at clay. Come spring, whenever Mother Nature decides that might be, my crooked wheelbarrow can be heard rumbling through the village up to my plot.

The fresh veg is nice. But, the time to think, the fresh air, the gossip. In equal measure these mean I heart my allotment.


Peas and beans and peat free

1 June 2013

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Thanks to the late Spring and general lethargy, I’ve been a bit behind on sowing seeds this year. There are potatoes and broad beans up at the allotment about which I’ll blog soon.

Back at the greenhouse, peas and beans have made a slow start. The runner beans are left over White Emperor which last year succumbed to rain, slugs and 2012’s overall rubbishness. Given that the season is “two weeks behind” according to something I heard on the radio, it’s not too late for the runners. At least, they have a home to go to: dug, and fed last weekend.

Keeping the beans company both in the greenhouse and in the legume trench are Ambassador peas. These are another left over from the 2012 apocalypse. I found another variety in my seed stash – Karina – but opted to go with Ambassador which, given the vote of confidence, have kicked off nicely.

(Note the toilet roll approach to sowing though I’m still getting used to the narrower diameter tubes.

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Together with another run of peas, today was brassica sowing day: broccoli, cabbage and Brussels. Though brassicas tend to do well up at the allotment, this is all a bit of a punt. Most of the seeds are near the “use by” date and I’ve planted a bit late in the season.

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Of the three, I’m holding out for broccoli. That’s handy as it’s one of my favourite vegetables even though I swear my mum put it in front of us for 100 days in a row one summer.

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This the first year of using coir as my general planting out compost. I do try to stay with peat free though I’m not too fussed about organic or otherwise. Coir was the only type on offer at my last garden centre trip. As far as I remember, it’s ground up coconut husks or something like that. It seems to hold moisture quite well. Let’s see if it’s providing decent nutrients.


Mirabelle: love unrequited

5 April 2012

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By now, I should have a dozen or so thin green stems sitting in the spare room waiting for the spring warmth to return and so to make new homes in 10 inch pots in the freshly cleaned greenhouse.

Alas. Mirabelle Blanche, my new internet seed love match, has stood me up.

I’m left with a hotchpotch of old seeds some faithfully fecund others, whilst not entirely panda-like, just a bit more coy and fickle.

Last week’s delivery from Tamar Organics was a proverbial mixed bag. A new lot of red clover sprouting seeds and Mirabelle’s Dear John letter. (BTW, if you like sprouting seeds, do try red clover. Fantastically crisp with a hint of spiciness.)

In response, I resorted to the tomato family’s answer to cockroaches (they could survive a nuclear holocaust) in Gardeners’ Delight and Moneymaker. Despite being well passed their best before date, I’m confident of at least a 50% strike rate. Given that I’ve sown a dozen or so of each, if you need any plants in 4 weeks time, I might have a few spare.

I’ve also emptied my store of slightly more exotic seeds. There’s Golden Queen – a tasty yellow oval – and Zuckertraube – sweet little fruits. The former produced a couple of plants last year but were hardly big croppers. The latter went all moody and died, not favouring for my erratic watering regime. Wimps.

To date, there’s been a bit of life from the Golden Queen and not much more. The plants got a good shot of spring sunshine last weekend, but since then have had to cope with cold blast from across the Bristol Channel.

Oh Mirabelle, you tease. I’m yearning for a tomato that tastes of something. No more over chilled, watery lumps from Spain thank you. Maybe this is the answer.

Next up, finding a space to protect cucumbers from July’s inevitable Atlantic gales.

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#WeeklyBlogClub


Refresh

22 March 2012

Once upon a time this was a blog about a transplanted townie tending an allotment. Not quite the “good life” (whatever that is), but the odd belthering about weeds, polytunnels and broccoli.

All of a sudden, the calendar said 21 March. Vernal equinox. Or, as we know it in the northern hemisphere, spring.

And, allotment 5 1/2 is looking a sorry state.

That’s a poor show considering it’s been a mild and dry winter, suitable for clearing weeds and putting goodness back in the soil. There’s been too many distractions. Community life aside, Jeff Stelling, the Saturday Soccer crew and a comfy sofa have proved too much, too easy.

There’s no promise that I’ll get out this weekend. Rarely, the southwest forecast is the best of the regions: dry, bright and 16 C. But, there’s some stirrings in the loins.

In a week filled otherwise with telephone calls, meetings, internet searches, re-writing business plans and share offers (and this was supposedly a holiday), I did fit in a little bit of yard work (I love that phrase) before returning to the day job on Monday.

The raised bed has been cleared and primed with cat deterrent. I’ve even got some baby greens thriving under a cloche, a remnant of autumn planting. I spent a couple of back breaking days pulling weeds, hacking down redundant shrubs and stumps of trees that should never have been planted. The garden waste bin overflowed with green detritus.

Meanwhile, up at the allotment, my Brussels have finished. Three types of garlic have wintered well. There’s but a few stunted bulbs. So, if I can avoid rot, we should have a good crop come June.

The spring cabbages are looking slightly sorry for themselves. All bar one should perk up. But, that renegade has bolted, sprouted a seed head. I’ve never seen a cabbage do that. My thinking is it’s a function of the dry, mild weather.

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Deid!

Next door to the cabbages, I have or had a good bed of broad beans that I planted out in early October.

Look at them now. Those that I covered under a netted cloche are straggly, but alive. In contrast, those left to the elements have expired.

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Check out Mr F's forearms - wow! It's Popeye!

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Always read the instructions - yeah, right.

So, off to our local budget garden centre last week to fill a big shopping trolley. With a small packet of discount seeds. And, three large bags of peat-free compost. And, cat repellent. Naturally slug repellent too. All organic, mind you.

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The toilet roll method

Using the expired toilet roll method, I’ve started off another batch of broad beans, which hungry mice permitting should be ready to plant out by the end of April.

The rationale for autumn planting of broad beans is to avoid black fly which can devastate your crop. Late planting means you run the risk though by pinching out the tops once the fruits start to form also discourages the flies.

But, in three years of trying I’ve now lost well over 50% of my crops. Conclusion, next season I’ll start off beans under cover in January for March planting out.

For many gardeners in my division (Conference South) broad beans are one of the first crops to be ready, a bit of a treat in April or May.

The beans are quite versatile. You can eat them as young ‘uns, in their skins and quite sweet. As a mature bean, pop off the skin after a quick blanch: great in a salad with spring onions, kidney beans, couscous, lemon and oil. As old boots, add broad beans to casseroles and soups.

From indifference, I’ve become a great fan.

For the weekend, the lazy to do list consists of tomato seed sowing. The active, active, not sitting in front of screen list includes additional digging, weeding and shooting the breeze with fellow allotment growers.

Ctrl+F5.5=Allotment 5 1/2 refreshing.