Slow & Steady Wins The Race

The rain has finally fallen. The ground has been terribly dry over the past month; although it has been recorded as the warmest April on record. This has made preparing the ground for planting a nightmare, as I have mentioned previously. Surprisingly, we have not needed to buy a clay breaker for the soil.

With Spring now in full swing, its wonderful to see everything burst into life once more. The greenhouse is full of vegetables that will be ready to plant out in the coming weeks. Frustratingly, a little mouse decided to devour all of my squash and pumpkin seeds. I only realised this after waiting two weeks for the seeds to germinate, but not to worry; I planted some more last week.

There are also two new additions to the planter area. A smaller tyre and a raised bed made of pallet wood. We have planted several crowns of rhubarb in the raised bed in hopes that it will fare better in there rather than in the ground. As previously mentioned, it had been attacked by a pest last year after moving it. The clay soil probably doesn’t help either, so fingers crossed for a crop next year. We have planted a few cloves of garlic into the smaller tyre, but as it has not been through a frost I’m not so sure how well it will preform. There are also plans to grow either a gherkin or a cucumber up the smaller tepee.

The bean plot is now ready and raring to go, although I definitely have more beans growing than I have sticks to grow them up and there are still more that I need to plant! Digging was a breeze due to the moisture the soil had retained from the rainfall.

Just behind the herb tyre I have planted a variety of colours of Gladioli. I thought by planting them in a line behind the planter area rather than scattered throughout the border area, it would create a more defined, uniform break in the planting areas. Unfortunately for one little bulb, I had forgotten that I had planted them and my fork when straight through it.

There are still so many seeds I need so sow and there just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough space in my greenhouse. Perhaps we need another plot…

April Showers, Where Are You?

Not too long ago, I was complaining about the plot being too wet. Well, now it is much too dry! I can only hope that there will be some showers in April. The ground takes twice as long to work, but we haven’t let it stop us from planting more seeds. Compost was once again added into the soil and worked in. Our clay soil is a bit like a crumble mix. The clay is the butter, the soil is the sugar and the compost is the flour; we need all three for the perfect sowing conditions.

The third row of our first plot has been planted with baby carrots and parsnips. We have only planted half a row of each per row to try and avoid a glut. We will plant more of these in a few weeks time to ensure a staggered crop.

Last year, part of the right side of the plot was not used and thus remained neglected. Unfortunately only two plots were planted up on the right side of the allotment; these were pumpkins and lettuce. The front quarter remained empty. This year, we have prepared some of the previously neglected right side and planted some potatoes; as they are great for breaking up the soil and did a great job of doing so on the left side previously.

We have used Royal Majesty (purple heritage variety) and some white potatoes (Cultra). Some of the Royal Majesty seed potatoes were quite large, so these were cut in half and the open end was left to dry for a few days before planting. A new skin had formed over a previously exposed potato.

Tom’s office has now become a greenhouse. The window is perfect for germination as it has sunlight for most of the day, although he is fast running out of room and there is still much more to plant! The Black Russian, Yellow Delight and Midnight Snack tomatoes are have all been potted on and will make their way to the allotment soon. All twelve Gherkins have germinated, so we will probably give some of those away. The various Chilli Peppers have also has a high success rate of germination so some of those will probably be given away as well.

Speaking of greenhouses, this was tucked away at the back of my Mum’s shed. I had been looking into getting a cold frame recently, so this popped up at the right time. It fits perfectly under the window box, the front of the shed gets the most hours of daylight as well so there was no better place for it.

Currently germinating in the greenhouse are:
– Various sweet peas varieties
– Sweetcorn “Incredible”
– Lemon Cucumber
– Crystal Apple Cucumber
– Marigold “Boy o’ Boy” (French, Orange)
– Sunflower “Valentine” (Pale Yellow)
– Uchiki Kuri
– Giant Pumpkin “Atlantic”
– Orange pumpkin (unsure of the specific variety)
– Kohl Rabi (Purple)
– Cape Gooseberry “Golden Berry”
– Green Peas (unsure of the specific variety)
– Purple Dwarf French Beans “Amethyst”
– Yellow French Beans “Polka”

The sweet peas will be planted out sometime in the next week or two. The tomatoes and various other plants from Tom’s walk in greenhouse will make their way over to the little allotment greenhouse.

The days are much longer now and I sometimes find myself spending 6 or 7 hours at the allotment. The time really does fly by, although at the moment there aren’t really many places we can go to.

I know this is still a strange time for us all, but better days are coming.
This too shall pass.

A Spring of Isolation

With everything that is going on in the world, I am very grateful to have my little allotment plot. Somewhere to relax, get some exercise and fresh air and most importantly, to stay away from people. Although really, not much in my life as changed as I am pretty anti social anyway; but I hope you’re all staying safe out there.

Spring has finally sprung. The ground has finally dried out [perhaps a little too dry!] so we can now crack on with turning the ground over and getting some seeds sown. Red and white onion sets have been planted, along with some red spring onion and some Chioggia beeetroot seeds.

Once Tom had dug the ground, I had to break down the clumps of clay between my hands and add in compost so that the soil would be good enough to sow the seeds directly into. The sets were easy enough to plant in the soil as it was, we just covered them with compost. Seeds wouldn’t have thrived in the soil as it was so we did our best to improve the quality. With all of the rain the last few months, the clay in the soil seems to have become even denser making the ground much harder to work; I think we will need to invest in some clay breaker.

The sweet peas have been planted outside, although part of me wishes I had left it another week or two as there have been a couple of frosts since planting them. They were beginning to outgrow their pots, so I thought planting them was for the best. Unfortunately they don’t look as green as they did, but they have fared better than expected. I have wrapped them in some bubble wrap in hope that it protects them from any further damage in the meantime.

The strawberry patch has now been boxed off. Because of the size of the pallet wood we had, we decided to shorten the plot but make it a little wider. Luckily only a handful of plants needed to be moved. I’m still unsure what to do with the plot behind the strawberries, originally it was going to be a wild flower plot but now I’m not so sure. The plot is quite awkward as the elder tree and brambles grow over it, any suggestions would be appreciated.

Now really is the time to get seeds planted. Tom had ran out of space on his windowsill, so he whipped up two shelves out of pallet wood to double the space. Another level might be needed at this rate!

Spring is always a good time to clean; the shed had become somewhat unruly after winter. We emptied out the shed, swept up the dirt and dust [a somewhat repetitive and fruitless task] and reorganised the drawers underneath the workbench. The back of the shed had also become somewhat askew with all of the empty plant pots and scraps of wood from the summer before. The pots were put in size order and the wood that had rotted is now in a pile to be disposed of. I freshened up the window box and some of the pallet bin with a lick of paint as well, as they were looking a little drab after winter.

Amongst all the uncertainly of current times and most places being closed, I celebrated my birthday down at the allotment. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We managed to achieve a lot, but left some time for tea and cake.

One can only hope that allotments continue to be accessible for everyone in the coming months so people are able to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. I know it will be a vital place for me.

Stay safe, friends.

Frames, Canes & Weather Ordeals

Hard to believe it has been a month since my last allotment update, but alas life (and the weather) has got in the way. Annoyingly, the ground is still too wet to plant anything directly; the potatoes and onion sets should be okay to plant a little later on. It is still frustrating when you want to get on with things but are unable to because of reasons that are out of your control.

We have since erected an archway (well, two that we joined with canes) so that we are able to grow various climbers over the path. Last year we had two bean tepees that grew over the path, but we thought the archways would be more structurally sound.

Whilst we aren’t able to plant anything into the ground, we have started to plant some seeds. We have only planted Jalapenos and Lemon Peppers so far; in regards to edible things at least. We wanted to see how successful the germination would be with our DIY propagator. It seems so have done the trick; 6 Jalapenos and 5 Lemon Peppers have germinated thus far, so we well set up more little propagators on any windowsill we can.

The rhubarb is starting to outgrow its pot. The crown below is one I purchased last year, the other three are currently resting in the compost heap at home. They seem to have recovered quite well and have grown back without any pest damage. Last year, the crowns appeared to have been eaten away by something. We’re planning to make a raised bed for the crowns we have in hope that we can avoid pest damage in the future.

The strawberry patch will also be boxed off soon, the runners have made the plot wider than we originally intended and they will continue to do so once the warmer weather arrives. Even the neighbours have gained some strawberries!

Some more sweet peas were planted about two weeks ago and some have germinated, hopefully more will germinate. The herbs have burst back into life and add some much needed colour to the allotment.

Here’s hoping that April doesn’t bring its showers.

Stormy Days

The allotment is starting to really come to life now, the strawberry patch needed weeded and some strawberries were hiding underneath. It is quite surprising to see fruit so early on in the year.

England has been battered by both storm Ciara and storm Dennis in the past week, so we knew we had to try and prepare the allotment. The bird feeder and lose pots were moved inside the shed and the pallets were laid on top of the carpet to keep it in place.

Storm Ciara didn’t cause too much damage to our shed, it just knocked off the fascia board on the front but that was an easy fix. The garden behind us on the other hand didn’t fare so well. The allotment had just about dried out before the storm hit. I was hoping we could finish turning the soil over, but alas it will have to wait once more.

The sweet peas will be ready to plant out by March, the risk of frost should have passed by then. It is important to plant them out before the warmer weather sets in, as sweet peas prefer cooler temperatures. I’ll probably be planting some more seeds up in the next week or two, they’re one of my favourite flowers – they always remind me of my Grandma. I’d like them all around the allotment, it just depends on how many germinate.

Out of the two varieties I have planted so far, the type that have done the best are Mr Fothergills “Twilight, 9 out of the 16 have germinated. The other type I had planted were Unwin’s “Berry Kiss”, but only three out of 16 have germinated. I planted these back in November, so unfortunately I have only had a 33.33% success rate with germination overall. Two seeds were planted per tube.

Perhaps it was due to them being left in the shed rather than a greenhouse, they were left by the window and were wrapped with some insulation but obviously it is no match in comparison to the temperatures you can get in a greenhouse.

We have been forcing the rhubarb and there has been some growth by doing so. The root was only purchased in the summer so is not mature enough to harvest this year, although we will probably take it out of the pot and plant it once the ground has dried out. Hopefully, we will be able to harvest it next year.

Here’s to the warmer, drier days.