Saturday, 29 May 2010

After the Rain

Finally, we have had a bit of rain. We did have some on Wednesday but by the time I went up to the plot yesterday you wouldn't have known it as it was already dry as dust again. This is how it was looking this afternoon when I went to inspect, but it only goes down about an inch and it's still dry and dusty underneath. We still need a lot more wet stuff. Above (bottom left) are the first two courgettes and two pumpkin plants I planted out yesterday. There are still two more courgettes and lots of squash to come. The sweetcorn is still looking a bit yellow. Onions and garlic look ok but no sign of the onions starting to swell yet. In the background you can see my loganberry bushes, which have plenty of flowers on them. Behind that you can just about make out that my new neighbour hasn't really got to grips with his plot yet. I still haven't set eyes on him, but there are signs of activity so he must be there some of the time.

Above are lettuce, kale and spinach (back) - we have had a few salads with lettuce thinnings and baby spinach leaves. In front the broad beans are looking very promising.

Below is my Heath Robinson brassica cage which will protect my brussels sprouts and purple sprouting brocolli. I wanted to make something a bit taller than the blue pipe tunnels, and also with something for the plants to lean against when they get very tall and top heavy. I hope it doesn't collapse.

We now have a combination padlock on the gate, so I really do feel that my little patch is quite secure now, otherwise I think I might not have gone to the trouble of making this cage, it would have been an open invitation to the vandals.

I think my runner beans have failed. I sowed the beans two weeks ago and still no sign of germination. I have started some more in pots, they will be slightly delayed but will probably catch up. The french beans are mostly up so something has definitely gone wrong with the runners. Either something's eaten them or I put them in too deep. I have dug away some of the soil on top so they might come through eventually.

I have taken out all last year's psb to make room for the tomatoes, which hopefully will get planted out over this weekend, along with the rest of the squashes.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Hardening Off

I have been hardening my tender veg out all week, and I am planning to plant some of them out this weekend. That may seem rather rushed, but my logic is that it has been as warm outside the greenhouse this week as it was inside last week, so the plants won't have noticed much difference. Tonight is the first night out in the open though. The only slight problem is that the psb is still sprouting, and is where the tomatoes are going to go. Normally it would all have been over and pulled out by now. I think the tomatoes can wait another week or two, whereas the sweetcorn....

is getting a bit desperate. See how much healthier the plants grown in pots are, compared with the toilet roll grown ones. I think this has convinced me not to bother with toilet rolls again. I know it's all green and good recycling, but they are more use chucked straight into the compost. It gets worse when you plant them out as well, as the cardboard decomposes, the plants go even yellower. I will be adding lots of well rotted chicken poo to the soil before planting, which I have been saving for just this reason.

This is the Stevia (the sugar substitute herb) which is starting to do quite well. I'm going to try cooking some rhubarb with it at the weekend, see how it really compares to sugar.

And lastly, here are my two blueberry bushes, which I have just repotted into these terracotta pots today. The pots are lined with plastic and filled with ericaceous compost. There are quite a few flowers, but I wonder how many of them will turn into blueberries.

I have had to do a lot of watering at the allotment, we haven't had any rain here for several weeks. The rain everyone else has had has just passed us by. Consequently the soil up there has turned to dust, so fine that it repels water and I have had to go to all sorts of lengths to get the water to penetrate, eg making holes with a fork, scooping little trenches either side of the row, etc etc. It is all very time consuming, and to make matters worse, one of my water butts is now completely empty and the other isn't far off.

Last Saturday I sowed runner beans, french beans and another row of peas, all direct outside. As yet there is no sign of germination. I gave a friend a pot of french bean seeds for her birthday, which I had just sown so she could watch them germinate - that was on 5th May and apparently they have still not come up! This is not very encouraging is it? I have sown some more as I am determined to infect her with the veg-growing bug!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Security at last

We have finally had these new security gates put in, and a little bit of fencing as well, but only a bit each side of each gate. The prickly hawthorn hedges are now well enough established to deter all but the most determined troublemakers. However, as yet the gates are not locked, and we haven't been told whether or when this will happen or if we will all get keys. Apparently some people don't want the gates to be locked, but it seems a rather expensive and pointless exercise to have new gates if they are not secure. We'll wait and see.

Here's my strawberry/fruit/squash patch prior to weeding....

and after. I removed quite a lot of the nasty, unidentified weed with the long stringy roots, but there is still quite a bit left and I will probably have to fork through it again before planting out my squashes here.

Here are my potatoes, (looking as if they're planted on a very steep slope, but it's just the camera angle) before I earthed them up again, as best I could, but some of them are getting too big to be earthed up any more. Which is worrying as we are forecast more frost tonight and tomorrow, and no apparent end in sight to this cold weather. I still haven't got any fleece. When oh when are we going to get some seasonal weather again? Everything (apart from the potatoes) seems to have just stopped growing.

My asparagus is really disappointing, we have had about seven spears so far, and there are only about four of the original ten crowns that are producing anything. The rest seem to have died.

The purple sprouting brocolli has almost run out of steam. The plants look extremely healthy - big, bushy and lush dark green in colour, but they haven't really produced many actual sprouts. They're all leaf and no sprout. If anyone has any explanation for this or tips on how I can encourage more sprouts, I'd be glad to know.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Help! It's May already

I'm not exactly behind, but where did April go? In a couple of weeks I will have to start thinking about sowing my beans, so today I have been clearing the weedy patches where they are to be grown. As usual, I forgot to take the camera, but here are a few pictures of how my young plants are getting on...



squash (not sure which ones these are)



My butternut squashes are a bit behind, none of the four original sowings came up, so I decided to put the rest of the packet to chit, to see if any of them would. I've sown four more, but as yet there is only one starting to show.

Since my last post, I have planted out summer cabbages, celeriac and sunflowers, cleared the summer veg area and made a start on clearing the bit at the end where the nasty weed infestation is. The potatoes are up and away and I have already had to earth them up twice. The peas are looking brilliant and the lettuce, kale, spinach and parsnips are all trying hard. The carrots are struggling, as are the spring onions. Yesterday I spent about three hours weeding the onions and garlic - all looking good. Photos next time.

Yesterday we went to the woods to see how the bluebells are getting on. It was cold and windy, and cloudy, but the bluebells are just coming into full swing. If it's sunny next weekend I might try and go again, see if I can get some better photos.