Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Potatoes: ooof, my back

I have finally got the early potatoes in the ground. I was planning to go and play tennis afterwards, but I didn't finish until 2.00pm by which time it was too late and my back was aching.

I decided to dig trenches, rather than just making holes and plopping them in, because I wanted to put home-made compost along the bottom.

I'm very glad I didn't try and put the maincrops in at the same time, probably would have collapsed into the trench.

Here we are then, all done. There is still room at one end for my 20 x Sarpo Mira. The potatoes are under the furrows, not the ridges because:
1) any rain should go straight down to the potatoes, rather than run off either side
2) it will be easy for me to earth them up as soon as the shoots appear, which I will need to do because:
a) it will protect them from frost and
b) it will encourage them to produce more... sideshoot thingies, which will in theory make more potatoes.

The vandals have been back and broken a bit more off my shed roof:

No other damage though thank goodness. Here is the perennial patch, which I will photograph and post again in late summer for comparison.

Finally the greenhouse space issue has been solved by the addition of two new shelving units. They are very cheap and cheerful, I have to be careful not to overload them or they will probably collapse. The wire shelves just lift off, so I plan to use the frames as cucumber and tomato supports when the time comes.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Greenhouse space is running out..

I have sowed more tomato seeds this year than ever before, which might seem a little foolhardy after the last two years, however, I have started relatively early, so I have a fighting chance of harvesting a reasonable amount before any blight strikes, and you never know, we may even have a good, hot summer! I will also be growing as many as I can fit in the greenhouse, so I should still get a decent crop even if we do get blight. At the moment though I am running out of space in the greenhouse, and there is still more potting on to be done. I have put these tomato and pepper seedlings into newspaper pots, which are a decent size and as they are flexible, you can fit 8 or 9 into a shoebox.

Down on the plot, I have put onions in - white, red and shallots. The garlic is looking good, but the overwintered onions still a bit feeble. If they don't come to anything I could always do extra leeks I suppose. I have also done lots more weeding and digging, and planted two loganberry plants, one of them is from my father-in-law's garden, one that layered itself. Two of the three blackcurrent bushes appear to have died, so now I have to decide whether to replace with more dodgy Wilkos ones, or spend money on garden centre ones. Decisions decisions.

In the 'perennial patch', the rhubarb is coming on nicely, and I am considering forcing the biggest, best established plant, but I'm dithering a bit and if I'm going to do it I should get on with it, before it starts growing properly. One reason why I'm dithering is that I'm not sure the plant is strong/established enough yet, and the other is that it's right next to the fence by the path, and large upside down container drawing attention to itself would be an open invitation to vandals and troublemakers. Speaking of which, there was an incident up there yesterday afternoon: I was digging away happily when a teenage lad ran past, hotly pursued by a police car, two police officers jumped out and managed to catch him. They arrested him and took him away, but I don't know what he had done.

Also in the perennial patch, the comfrey is coming up and I planted a selection of flowering perennials. I've also got wildflowers sown, and sunflowers, and this is all in the interests of biodiversity. I really want to do more borage, as it was so popular with the bees, but I can't seem to find the seeds I saved from last year.

This afternoon I will just be mowing the lawn, so probably no more allotment action until I plant my potatoes, probably next weekend for earlies, around Easter for maincrop.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Sooty greenhouse incident

On Monday I had a seed sowing marathon: all the brassicas, flowers, celery leaf and leaf beet, herbs and peas, as well as potting up some tomato seedlings. I have nearly run out of surface space and there are still lots of tomato, chilli and pepper seedlings to pot up.

Anyway as it was forecast to be a chilly night I thought I would try out my new parafin heater (foreground), well, bought last year actually but not needed until now. I wish I had read the instructions thoroughly before lighting up. If I had I would have spotted the line: "do not allow the flames to burn above the level of the burner bridge, or the wicks will dry out and smoking may occur" and I would not have come down the next morning to find the greenhouse full of black smoke, with every visible surface covered in a layer of black soot, including the outside of the glass. Still, the thermometer read a minimum of about 8 degrees, so nice and cosy!!

I had to go to work so as soon as I got home I set to and cleaned up. The glass is a lot cleaner and there is slightly less soot around but I'm still coming out with black hands every time I touch anything. I have tried it again with the flames at the right height and there was no smoke or soot this time but it wasn't nearly as warm - thermometer said it went down to 0 degrees. More experimentation is required.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

I have produced cauliflowers

Would you believe it? I was just eyeing the brassicas despondently, purple sprouting brocolli - five had to be dug up as they were dead, cabbage - rotting on their stalks and haven't hearted up at all, and wondering how long to give it before digging them all up for composting, when I spotted this! There are several more coming too. It's the first time I've ever grown cauliflower so I wasn't sure when they were supposed to be ready. But I think I have given the remaining seeds away, thinking it was a dead loss. It might be worth another crack after all. I've got romanesco to try this summer, but it's just as well to have something that's ready now, not much else about. Better get some more seeds.

Have been to the plot again this morning - beautiful sunshine and only light winds, and it's starting to look quite organised and tidy now.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Genuine Germination

This time it's for real - on the left, two melons, I can't remember how many I sowed. Tomatoes in the middle (and there are two other trays, not shown) and cucumbers on the right, which I have now potted on and moved into the greenhouse. The red peppers are just beginning to emerge, but there is still no sign of the orange peppers or the chillies.

Last Friday I planted two apple trees (cordons) in the garden. I haven't taken a photo because to be honest, at the moment they just look like a couple of sticks stuck in the ground. I shall take a picture when they have grown branches and are covered in blossom ! One variety is Scrumptious, the other is Saturn.

I'm off to the plot this afternoon to do some digging and weeding. I haven't been since I planted the blackcurrant bushes. I've got lots of flowering plants to take up and plant: crocosmia, primroses, sedums (all from the garden), and various perennials I bought last week in the garden centre.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

If something seems too good to be true.....

... it probably is. And seeds germinating after one day? Too good to be true. On closer inspection, they are not chilli or tomato seeds. The penny dropped when a seedling came up in the cucumber tray, looking exactly like the other two seedlings. They must be weed seeds which somehow got into the seed compost. Feeling a little foolish now....

One Day Wonder

I can report that the first chilli seed has germinated after ONLY ONE DAY in the heated propogator!!!! When I checked this morning a Sungold tomato has also germinated, after two days. I fully expect to see more seedlings emerging when i get home from work later... will let you know tomorrow.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Seeds, seedlings and chitting

I have filled up my heated propogator today with tomatoes (Sungold, Red Cherry, Gardener's Delight and Moneymaker), peppers (Gourmet [orange] and California Wonder [red]), melon Yellow Baby, cucumber Melen, and chilli Ring of Fire.

So the Marmande tomatoes and celeriac have had to be relegated to the greenhouse to make room. I have also done a tray of early leeks - fingers crossed they will be a bit better than last year's pitiful crop.

Here are the over-wintered lettuces, which I keep forgetting to pick.

And the Anya potatoes, which are chitting nicely, as are all the others but I won't show you them all. I'm planning to plant first and second earlies maybe the 3rd week in March, main crop in mid-April.

Slight mystery - I'm sure I ordered two packets of cucumber, but I can only find one, and it only contains four seeds (F1 hybrids - very stingey). Guess I'll have to buy another packet from a garden centre, as I want to do a second sowing mid-summer.

I have also ordered two cordon Apple trees - one Scrumptious, one Saturn, which will go in the garden against the fence where I have recently removed a supposedly thornless (only it wasn't) blackberry. It was never very attractive and was turning into a bit of a thug. I don't even like blackberries that much and anyway you can pick them from the hedges at the allotments.

Also today I have put in a few snowdrop plants under the damson tree. 50p each!

So, now that it's March, lots of sowing and planting to do this month. I still haven't got my onion sets. It's all go...