Allotment Diary: April & May

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cow parsley growing on our allotment

We’ve not done an Allotment Diary post for quite a while – that’s not to say we’ve not been busy.

Working on our allotment in May 2015

We’re bringing you what we did in April & May… all in one go!

Justin digging beds on our allotment in May 2015

We cleared more overgrown areas for planting crops.

Adelle securing tomato plants on our allotment in May 2015

Some lovely young tomato plants donated to us by Trudi next door went into this bed.

Making pots from newspapers for potting on seedlings

We’ve also been planting lots of seeds at home where we can keep an eye on the young plants. Adelle spent an afternoon making these little pots out of old newspapers to accommodate some of them…

Growing radish seedlings for our allotment in April 2015

…and seed trays are full to bursting.

Growing bean seedlings on our allotment in May 2015

Young plants are then taken to the allotment to plant out – French beans in an old bathtub here!

Growing squash seedlings under a cloche on our allotment in May 2015

And these little butternut squash seedlings have found a new home under their cavernous cloche.

Chitted seed potatoes being planted in trenches on our allotment in April 2015

The potatoes we chitted and planted a few weeks ago are doing really well – no frost, thank goodness!

Potato plants thriving on our allotment in May 2015

We have them dotted all over the place in beds & bags – Jersey Royals, Maris Peer and King Eddies.

Strawberry plants flowering on our allotment in April 2015

Strawberries are developing flowers that should become nice juicy fruits. This is another bathtub project which we’re very hopeful of – keeping them slightly elevated under nets should keep slugs and birds at bay.

Last year's celery still growing on our allotment in May 2015

We left these celery plants in their beds at the end of last year – they seem to be growing nice new stalks this spring, so we’ll see what happens.

Currants on our allotment in May 2015

Fruit bushes are looking very healthy this year – these redcurrants should be full to bursting come September.

Creature proofing our allotment

We’re started putting up protection after last year’s crop devastation. Also, a network of canes are in place along bed edges at the moment. This is an attempt to teach our dog Fudge to walk along designated paths like Nigel the Golden Retriever on Gardeners’ World!

Woodpile on our allotment in May 2015

Other jobs included sweeping the very last of autumn’s leaves and cutting back overhanging branches which shade the plot. More sunshine for the plants and a bit of firewood for us!

Flowers on our allotment in May 2015

We like to keep some areas on the allotment over for flowers – they look pretty and are great for wildlife. Many of them self-seed, so it’s just a case of giving them loose boundaries and transplanting where required.

Training a rose bush on an arch on our allotment in May 2015

We inherited a rather tangled and untidy rose bush which grew almost horizontally through the undergrowth. This metal arch should give it more structure and opportunity to flower – the brick path will eventually be extended beneath which should look great.

Robin perched on a spade handle on our allotment in May 2015

One beneficiary of some natural areas are the birds. We might not want them eating our strawberries, but there are plenty of insects that they can get stuck into. We get all kinds of finches, tits and thrushes. Our friend the robin has been a permanent fixture on our visits. You can’t leave your tools unattended for long without it using them as the perfect vantage point for freshly uncovered worms. We do have one bird problem though. We’re fans of Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie on 6Music. Unfortunately, we caught one episode where they said that the wood pigeon’s call sounds like “My toe hurts Betty”. It drives us nuts now – we just can’t get it out of our heads!

Picking stinging nettles on our allotment in May 2015

It’s not just wildlife that benefits from the untouched corners of the allotment. These nettles are growing in a rusty old trough at the far end of the plot. The young tips make great soup… and nettle bread was one of our recent Cakes & Bakes posts.

The robin perched on a fence on our allotment in May 2015

It’s certainly been beneficial to get going a bit earlier this time round – hopefully we’ll reap the benefits later in the year!

Allotment Diary: Clearing up, winding down

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cabbage, apples and potatoes from our allotment

Autumn is well & truly here – and our weekend visit to the allotment certainly proved it.

ripening tomatoes on our allotment

It was a beautiful sunny day, but the unmistakable signs of nature winding down for the year were all around.

collecting fallen leaves into a wheelbarrow

We picked a few remaining crops and cleared fallen leaves & beech masts.

robin on our allotment

Within seconds, our canny little friend appeared to snack on freshly uncovered worms & insects.

chilli apple compote made from windfall apples

Justin didn’t go hungry either – he rustled up an evening meal from the last of the vegetables and windfall apples.

pork chop with veg and apple sauce made from produce from our allotment

Pork chop with an apple & chilli compote – baby potatoes & cabbage with balsamic vinegar. Ready, Steady, Cook – eat your heart out! 😉

Allotment Diary: Lots of weeds!

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old ceramic sink where we're growing salad, full of weeds

It’s been a whole three weeks since we’ve last been to our allotment. Whenever we had the time to go, it was pouring with rain; when the weather was fine, we were busy with other commitments. We entered the plot with trepidation – in what kind of state was it going to be? This old sink we’d planted with mixed salad seeds was quite typical – what’s salad and what’s weeds? This scene was repeated all over the plot.

pea seedling and sunflower seedling

Weeds were our main problem, but pests had taken their toll too. Of the half dozen apiece of garden pea and sunflower seeds we planted in this bed – once we’d finished weeding around them – only a single specimen of each had survived some phantom killer! We definitely can’t leave it 3 weeks again!

wheelbarrow of potato plants to be transplanted

We discovered some (unplanned) potato plants that had erupted in some of our beds. We dug them up and transplanted them into a big black bin that we’d inherited from the previous allotment custodian. We don’t know if they’ll produce anything, but thought we’d give them a chance.

unripe currants

One thing that we didn’t need to worry about were our fruit bushes. We certainly won’t be short of berries to pick in a couple of months time. There are about a dozen shrubs full of young fruits – red, white and blackcurrants. A bit of research into interesting berry recipes will be needed!

Allotment Diary: Instant gratification

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tray of Savoy cabbage seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

We succumbed to a bit of instant gratification prior to this week’s allotment visit – impatient waiting for all our seeds to sprout! 🙂

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

We pass Gordon Riggs garden centre on our way there, so we pulled in and picked up a few things. Some pretty French marigolds – a perfect companion plant for the tomatoes we planted last time – its smell discourages whitefly that feed on the tomato leaves and cause the fruit to ripen unevenly.

tray of kale seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

A tray of Cavolo Nero – a very hardy variety of kale that’s disease resistant and unlike cabbage, not considered a tasty snack by hungry pigeons! Some Savoy cabbage too – and a few young celery plants.

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

They went into our newly created beds – in neat rows at the specified distance apart. At least we’re sure which are the vegetables and which are the weeds. It’s not quite as easy when seeds go straight into the ground. We have to confess that after this small job, the rest of the afternoon was spent drinking tea and reading the papers!

Allotment Diary: The Big Dig

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baby blackbird in foliage

It was good to get back on to our allotment after days of rain. Having said that, it was a tough day with plenty of digging!!

garden spade

We were clearing a new bed at the sunnier end of the site.

baby blackbird on a pile of bricks

We’re still uncovering lots of old bricks which will come in useful for more path & border building. The growing pile provided a nice perch for today’s feathered visitor – a gorgeous baby blackbird.

detail of baby blackbird in foliage

He looked as if he had only just fledged. He hung around for a while – we even threw him a couple of small worms which he ate gratefully. Eventually, he toddled off to under the gooseberry bushes in the direction of his parents’ calls.

planted out tomato plants on our allotment

It was a case of four hours of digging, ten minutes of planting today. The only things we put into the soil, apart from a spade, were half a dozen tomato plants donated by a kindly neighbour. They’re an outdoor variety, but it will be interesting to see what kind of crop we get on our relatively shady allotment – and how ripe they get.

Allotment Diary: Devastation!

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sweet cicily and aquilegia growing on our allotment

We arrived at our allotment this week after a 12-day gap. Everything was greener, there were more plants in flower. It was a lovely, sunny day.

a hole made by squirrels digging up seeds we planted a week ago

On closer inspection – devastation! Most of the seeds that we’d sown in toilet roll tubes had been dug up and their cardboard containers unceremoniously strewn about the place. We reckon the culprit or culprits were of the squirrel variety after an easy meal.

black plastic seed tray planted up with garden peas

Our original plan for the day was to clear debris from the sunny spot and turn it into a bed and our seating area. We weren’t anticipating having to re-sow garden peas, sweet peas and sweetcorn.

garden pea seedling on our allotment

The garden peas we planted (without cardboard tubes) a couple of weeks earlier were sprouting nicely. Lesson learned for next time!

salad seedlings emerging through the compost

Thankfully, we had a few other positive green shoots to report. Some of the lettuce seeds we planted on our last visit were already sprouting…

potted strawberry plants sitting on a low wall on our allotment

…there were lots of strawberry plants that were sending suckers out all over the place that we divided & potted up…

gooseberry fruits growing on our allotment

…the gooseberry flowers were turning into little fruits…

wood pigeon building a nest in a tree on our allotment

…and a pair of wood pigeons were busy building a nest in a tree just above our heads.

Justin levelling an area into a bed and seating area

We eventually got around to working on the sunny spot in the late afternoon – clearing away the pile of rubbish, plastic water drums and levelling out the ground. Hopefully no more nasty surprises will await us on our next visit!