Sunday, 29 June 2008

Look at my cucumbers!

They have gone from finger sized to this in a matter of days. Soon I'm going to be inundated. It's always a challenge to get your lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes to coincide for at least a couple of weeks. Usually you get lots of lettuce, followed by lots of cucumbers, followed by lots of tomatoes, and so you can hardly ever say, "everything in the salad is homegrown". I've got a bit better at successional sowing of lettuce, and this year I tried to start my tomatoes off early but failed as it was too cold for them to germinate. Also it's been a few years since I grew my tomatoes in the greenhouse, they always seem to get tough skins, and the year before last (which was a hot one) when I grew them all outdoors, I had the best tomatoes ever, so I decided not to bother with indoor ones any more, then we had last year... .. so anyway now they're even less likely to coincide with the cucumbers. This year I sowed some more cucumbers about the beginning of May, thinking they'd be ready to take over from the first lot when they started to get a bit ropey in late summer, and start getting a fresh supply just as the tomatoes come on stream. The best laid plans etc etc... the new cucumbers are already too big and need to go into their final positions, but the old ones are still quite young and just about to start cropping. Have decided they will just have to go outside on the allotment, so fingers crossed.. They can go where the un-protected melons are, it's obvious they are not going to come to anything. I will dig them up this afternoon and put the cucumbers up there after they've hardened off for a few days.

But just look at these roses.. the trellis that supports them is about to collapse under the weight of the flowers and the high winds we've been having. Every time I admire them it is tinged with anxiety; if this wind goes on much longer the whole thing could come crashing down..

Here are the peppers on the right, with a couple of aubergines in the foreground (which are growing VERY slowly, if at all). The red box of compost is for Leo, the cat, who likes to while away the hours sleeping in it.

And here are my melons in growbags, two on the staging, two below; my chillis, which are now flowering freely, and some basil, oh and a lot of messy junk I can't find another home for.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

How that became this part 2

As well as digging the main plot, I also had a strip of ditch/verge about 2m wide, running alongside between the plot and the hedge. At first it was quite a deep ditch, but after throwing in all the couch grassy clods it gradually filled up and became a verge. I don't think drainage will be a problem as there has been no water in the ditch for years apparently. The soil is very light, sandy and well drained.

In the first year the verge was completely overgrown with nettles and couch, and was a haven for slugs and snails, especially with all that rain. In the early autumn I sprayed the whole area with glyphosate, and have gradually been clearing it to make a proper path. At one end of it I have sited my shed (it's more of a cupboard actually, it's only just big enough to put tools in, you can't get inside it) and have even rigged up some guttering and a water butt. The very very large piece of black plastic had to be torn and cut into pieces small enough to be stuffed into bin bags, about 14 of them altogether and they have all now been disposed of. I have edged the first few metres in front of the shed with boards to create an edge to the path (which will have bark chippings put down on it) and the plan is to plant wild flowers along the hedge at the back of the verge.

The verge as it looks now. The weeds have begun to take over again so I have recently redone the glyphosate to keep them under control until I can finish the paths properly.

Between the 'sections' I have laid stepping stones of old paving slabs, mainly from around my garden, some scrounged from some people across the road who were having their crazy paving dug up. Between the stepping stones I have planted marigolds, poached egg plants, borage, lavender and rosemary cuttings, and chives. There are also a couple of echinacea plants and at the fence end, some sage and scabious. The only trouble is now some of them are so big I can no longer 'step' over them, the whole point being to avoid walking on the soil too much. But it looks very pretty now they are all in flower. They don't show up in any of the photos, but I'll try and take some next time I go.

Here are some of the things that are doing well now, they have put on lots of growth even since I took these.

You can't see the cabbages and calabrese very well as it's under the enviromesh, but I'm really pleased with them. We've had a couple of really fat, juicy, hearty greyhound cabbages, and a couple of calabrese heads, with more to come.

You can see the 'shed' behind and the stepping stones to the right.

Monday, 23 June 2008

1st Post

I have had my allotment now since March 2007, and since then have become obsessive about it. I had always grown veg in my garden but my habit had outgrown the space I had and I wanted more.. I spent all my spare time down there last year, then when the veg growing season came to an end I developed withdrawal symptoms and resorted to gardening books, magazines and seed catalogues. When these were exhausted and it was still only early January, I started searching the web and discovered allotment blogs!!! Sadly my husband and two children have so far shown absolutely no interest in what I do down at the allotment (although they like eating the produce!) and when I start talking about it their eyes glaze over, so the obvious thing to do was start a blog of my own, so that I can bla bla bla to my heart's content. Maybe no one will read it, but at least it's an outlet, and I can refer back to it for planting dates etc. I have been taking photos regularly, at least, I took a couple when I first took it over, then no more until March of this year.

This is how it looked when I first took it on.

and to cut a long story short, this is how it looks now:

So, to make the story long again, this is what I have done between then and now:
during the first year, the first thing I had to do was dig, dig some more and then dig some more. The plot had been ploughed, but not cleared first, so there were huge clumps of couch grass to remove, lots of brambles, and apparently the previous tenant had covered the whole thing in black plastic, because although a HUGE piece of it was thrown onto the ditch alongside, there were also lots of smaller pieces ploughed into the soil as well. There is still some buried around the edges, which I can't seem to dig out.
I had to plant things as I had cleared a space big enough, so there was no plan, just first things first, so, onions first, then potatoes, etc etc. Most things grew well, but the cabbages were disappointing, and I lost all my tomatoes to blight. Also I was amazed at how impossible it was to keep on top of all the weeds. I sowed green manure in the empty patches, and between the sweetcorn, but, instead of being smothered by it, the weeds came up at the same time, so I just let it all grow, then had to pick through and remove the perennial weeds before cutting it all down. If you're considering green manure, DON'T sow perennial clover! It won't die!
SO, this year, I spent hours and hours working out a crop rotation plan. I decided to divide the whole plot into seven sections, the one at the end by the fence was to become the perennial area - rhubarb, comfrey, various flowering plants to attract beneficial insects (although these have mostly yet to be planted, I'm still clearing the nettles, and some of it is covered with a manure pile.) Next section was to be potatoes (but they only took up half of it so there is now also carrots and celeriac), then onions, shallots, spring onions and leeks, then sweetcorn, tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins and squashes, next legumes: french beans, runner beans, peas, asparagus peas and broad beans, and crimson clover (which is a half hardy annual) to fill the gaps. Next to that brassicas: purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, various cabbages, calabrese, a few turnips. In the other end section, I've got strawberries, a redcurrant bush, some sunflowers and some melons, which I've never done before. I've put five plants up there (four in growbags in my greenhouse), two of them I've covered with open ended cloches. They are all surrounded by stones, the idea being the stones get really hot during the day and release the heat at night to keep them warm.
Some sections, legumes and brassicas, are divided into two halves, one for winter crops, the other for summer, then next year's rotation plan will have a few half sections to play with. It's extremely complicated!
I think I've done enough for tonight - I'm even beginning to bore myself now. Tomorrow or the next day I will write about what grows in my garden, and possibly about Bokashi.