Does this help you guess?
Can you guess what it is yet?
I agree that it’s not the easiest of things to work out. And depending on where you stand it could cause you to either despair or delight in the challenge ahead.
One of the amazing things is what you find: an eight foot bay tree, a white fuchsia that looks older than Methuselah, some tiger lilies nestling in between the two as if waiting out the neglect. Can you see them? They might be easier to spot in the second photo. These are before and after shots, in case you hadn't worked it out. And the 'after' is one bonfire, two hours work with strimmer and shears, all on the hottest day of the year, plus lots of nettle stings and hayfever sneezes.
Okay, have you guessed what it is yet?
Leek growing experiment – interim report
Well, it’s quite a while since we planted our leeks by two different methods: the Andi Clevely way (cover some ground with newspaper and a mulch of cut grass, dig a hole in it, drop in a leek seedling, water, leave alone); and the ordinary way (dig a hole, drop in a leek seedling, fill in hole). There’s not a vast amount of difference between the two plantings as this point, but I would say the leeks growing the Clevely way are perhaps just a bit thicker? The Clevely leeks are in the blue painted bed while the traditionally planted leeks are in the grey one.
We’ll do a real comparison test when it comes to harvest-time but I’m certainly not as worried about the Clevely way as I was when we did the original planting, at which point it felt a bit like leek neglect.
Today I had to go and water the plot at lunchtime which is most odd and unusual, and probably more or less a waste of time, but as neither of us can get to the allotment again until Sunday, it was a question of water in the heat of the day , or don’t water at all, and I we have too many seedling plants to take the risk of not watering for three days. My haul today was broad beans, peas, strawberries and sweet peas, which was some compensation for having to stand for an hour in the sun, holding a hosepipe.
It seems we might have a leak … not us personally, but the site as a whole. We seem to be getting through a swimming pool’s worth of water between ten at night and eight in the morning, which is hardly like, even given the balmy weather and the fact that everybody is watering like mad.
So we’re taking our meter readings every day and preparing to argue the case with our water company (what a sense of dread I feel as I type those words) while fielding the complaints of our allotment-holders who are very unhappy about the water pressure.
It is low. It’s so low that if it was a pulse it would be terminal. Himself mutters about it all the time. I don’t actually have a problem with it, because I was raised in the ‘minimum watering’ school and think that irrigation is a precise affair to be carried out with as much dedication as weeding. Not so most British people who are used to sloshing water around like mad. I spent several months in the Sahara and believe me, it teaches you the value of water!
So, our council has outlawed sprinklers, which I think is a great idea (they increase ambient humidity by releasing up to 60% of the water they convey into the air, instead of it reaching the ground – no good to the plants at all) but many allotment holders like to turn on their sprinkler and go off and do something else, so it’s a constant battle to stop them. I’m not without sympathy – if you’re a single allotmenteer, watering time is dead time, you’re just stood there holding the hose when you could be doing something you think is more productive, and if you don’t have a fellow worker to weed and dig and harvest while you water, you’re spending twice as long on the plot as two-person teams. But water is a precious resource and we just can’t squander it in the way that too many people seem to want to.
I use bottle watering whenever I can, along with watering cans and rainwater capture systems. Our asparagus bed, for example, is a no weed system – it should never get wet unless it rains, and each crown has its own dedicated water bottle which I fill with rainwater, so the surface weeds don’t germinate because the water goes straight to the roots of the wanted plant with nothing meeting the needs of the unwanted ones. That’s the theory anyway. Every so often, Himself will forget and play the hose over it and a few days later I’ll have to weed it because a whole bunch of adventitious seeds will have sprouted!
Still, my 'front garden' is looking great - nice to have some more flowers on the plot!
Cross-dressing, tomato-ripening solstice-celebrating post!
My father has sent a photograph confirming his proud boast yesterday - he really did have the first tomato of the year, fully ripe, to eat on Father's Day. I know there's quite a difference between the West Country and here, but this is ridiculous: we're both growing our tomatoes in greenhouses so why should his be a good three weeks in front of mine? Anyway, I'm glad for him, and hope that he'll share his secrets with me, whatever they are ...
Yesterday we had an exciting bit of news for the solstice, but I can't tell you about it yet, you'll just have to bear with me until I'm absolutely sure. We've been harvesting peas (two kilos have gone into the freezer so far, and that's actual peas, not sugar-snaps or mange-touts), broad beans and strawberries, radish and salads. No spuds yet.
In shock news - the green man has changed gender for the solstice.
Avoiding tomato blight
It’s warming up and that means that those who grow their tomatoes in the open are dreading the arrival of tomato blight. The proper name for it is Phytophthora infestans and it’s a fungus which causes the fruit to brown and rot away – it’s the same organism as potato blight which means that the prevalence of Mill’s Periods will increase the likelihood of blight.
A Mills Period is when ‘environmental conditions are favourable to promoting the development of a vector (spores in the air or soil and insect populations) or disease’ – in other words, when the weather is both warm and damp. Because this promotes the spreading of the organism and because it travels both above and underground, the blight moves very fast, spreading from plant to plant and from plot to plot, wiping out crops.
There are things you can do to avoid it – like growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse where you change the soil annually to stop the organism overwintering in the soil. That’s what we do. If you want to grow tomatoes in the open, try:
1. Limiting watering – irrigate your plants only when necessary, preferably using a bottle watering or funnel type system and avoiding any spray of water landing on the leaves of the plant or on surrounding soil.
2. Try not to water in very windy weather as this can encourage water to spray around
3. Increase planting distances so that if one plant is affected, you might be able to limit the spread of the blight by removing others so that distant plants are not attacked.
4. Non-organic growers may want to try spraying with a copper treatment – but this has to be done before blight appears, so you have to gamble on spraying not less than 24 hours into what might become a Mills Period – it’s a tricky business.
Treatment is drastic – you have to destroy infected plants completely by pulling them out (carefully, so you don’t chuck contaminated soil etc over other areas of the plot) and burning them.
Royal Black Chilli seedling
This is my little black chilli plant - Harvest Home have one too, but I think mine is a bit bigger!
Taking over an allotment: things to consider
We’ve been looking after plot 201 for a couple of years now – this is our second season of potatoes. Or, to be more accurate, our second season of ‘not’ potatoes.
Last year our early potatoes (Accent and Pink Fir Apple) were prolific and our maincrops (Desiree) were rubbish. Really rubbish: we got about a replacement rate of potatoes – one or two for every seed potato we planted! This year our first earlies are Maris Bard and because we had one that started to yellow (on the left of the photo above) we dug it up to see what was happening. I really hope there was some peculiar problem with that seed potato because we got two new potatoes! Okay, it’s double replacement rate, but this is really worrying.
Our potatoes this year are in the ground where the beans and peas were last year, and it was well-manured in autumn, but what we don’t know is what the previous allotment holders planted or how they treated the soil which could mean that we have years of remedial work to do before potatoes will grow well. We do find spuds popping up all over the plot, which implies one of two things:
1. They grew nothing but potatoes for years (soil exhausted through no crop rotation)
2. They bought potatoes and planted them but never harvested them so they’ve gone volunteer all over the place (soil just as exhausted and not dug for years either).
It’s a bit of a bugger really. We could invest in a ph kit and all that stuff, but to be honest the only answer is to plant well, dig well, feed the soil well and not be too impatient. Oh, and budget for buying potatoes from the supermarket for the next couple of years ….
Not Marina de Chioggia
The perils of allotment plant swaps! Len thought this was a Marina de Chioggia squash but it's definitely a yellow courgette ... never mind, we like both!
Our new strawberry beds are producing absolutely massive strawberries ... amazing what a bit of muck can do!
June Allotment Tasks
We are planting out our brassicas. Actually, that’s not true. We have already planted out our brassicas, now we are doing all the other things that we need to do to ensure they survive: staking, collaring, and covering. Our cabbages, which will be eaten as spring greens, are in the fleece tunnel to keep the birds off. Our Brussels sprouts were being destroyed by pigeons, but now Himself has strung it and made it almost impossible for a bird bigger than a thumbnail to land anywhere near it. Our purple-sprouting broccoli is growing beautifully in trays and will move into the brassica cage once we’ve killed off all the thistles that have suddenly sprouted there.
We have more leeks than we have allotment! We have three raised beds, one normal bed and a random planting out of leek seedlings into any little piece of ground that seems leek-worthy.
We are sowing: beetroot, carrots, lettuce and radish. And parsnips too, although that’s more for total failure of germination reasons than for successional sowing reasons.
We are harvesting: broad beans, peas and strawberries (at last!)
Just a reminder that you can conduct the PTES survey on your allotment until the end of this month. It's a wonderful resource that helps manage the rare and lovely wildlife of our little island.
Allotment strawberries, hammocks and me
It's been an up and down weekend. After nearly two years we finally took the hammock to the plot! It's taken that longer for us to level an area in which to put it, but now that we've cleared the space under the pear tree which was a rubbish dump and compost bed, the hammock frame is installed and it was truly glorious to be swaying gently as I surveyed the changes in plot 201 over the past months.
It's not all joy. There are still some crops that aren't doing particularly well - I did resow some of the station sowings of parsnip, but I wonder if we'll get anything this time either: it's the third sowing! A couple of our new early potato haulms are dying back too, for reasons we can't fathom, and as they won't grow any more once they lose their green tops, we'll have to dig them up and find out what's happened below.
Then there are the strawberries. The strawberry. It's still not ripe! Okay, the two raised beds were only planted up with crowns in the autumn, so it's unfair to expect much, and one variety of strawberries is a late one, as we had too much of a glut last year. But in 2009 I was eating strawberries two weeks ago, and this year I'm reduced to popping to the plot every day to see if, finally, this monster of a strawberry is ripe enough to pick. Surely it will be today!
All the borlotti beans seems to have taken, which confirms that a good strategy for planting them in our heavy clay soil is to raise them in biodegradable pots in the greenhouse and then plant them in the ground without giving them any root damage. We've had two meals of broad beans, so that's wonderful, but our pea pods still haven't filled enough to harvest, which is again disappointing, as we were harvesting three weeks ago in 2009. They look fine, just very slow, like everything else this year.
And this is me ... outing myself at last! Actually this is my Stitched Self for a project being run by the Science Museum. They are inviting knitters, sewers and crocheters to create a six-inch-tall stitched self-portrait. I have to say that I am particularly proud of the watering can ...
I don’t know how anybody else is doing but my parsnip germination is nowhere near as good as last year. We certainly don't need this fence and the wire covers to keep the birds off - there's nothing for them to peck at! I reckon that we’ve got about half the seeds germinating that we had last year, and now the weather has warmed up, I’m wondering whether to resow the stations that haven’t had a seed germinate yet. The alternative is to sow in cells and the transplant. Not sure which would be best – there are arguments for both sides.
Parsnips don’t like root disturbance, but they are also notoriously difficult to get started, so is it better to absolutely control germination conditions and then run the risk of root disturbance, or to sow in situ and leave it to fate what happens climatically, but with confidence that what does germinate will probably be happy where it is. Decisions, decisions …
And the pollinators have arrived! Now the sun is here, plot 201 is murmurous with bees, especially around the sage which they particularly appreciate this year, maybe because other flowers are so late getting started.
Allotment bird feeder
I can't blame you if you're not sure what this was originally - I'm not at all sure myself: some kind of shop fitting I think, like those baskets of socks you get in sports shops.
Now it's a bird feeder, and they very much appreciate it, I can tell you!
Recycled sweetcorn windbreak
Flaming June is here! And as seems to be typical of recent British summers, it’s arrived as a deluge.
I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong – I’m sick of watering my plot. I spent most of the Bank Holiday weekend trudging up and down with watering cans and muttering curses under my breath against those allotment holders who were hogging the standpipe with their hose (five hours. Five hours! I ask you, what were they watering? Rice?) whilst watching me walking to and fro like a watery beast of burden. Our borlotti beans had to be planted out, because they were getting yellow through having exhausted their potting compost, but once planted they needed a lot of water.
The sweetcorn didn’t need water so much as shelter. The vicious winds that rip along the Sussex coast have usually abated by mid May, but this year they have extended their grip right up to the end of May, and sweetcorn doesn’t appreciate chill breezes. So we re-purposed some hinged garden trellis that a neighbour was throwing away. A couple of splashes (and they were splashes) of leftover paint, and our trellis arches were ready to become a ‘Moorish Palace’ for sweetcorn!
Corn has to be planted in blocks for pollination, so screening it is actually quite easy – we have one lot of corn in a raised bed, surrounded by horticultural fleece on canes, and the second lot has gone into a block with the trellis supporting some fleece, along with canes. We still have a couple of rows to plant out, because I’m not convinced the seedlings are sturdy enough yet, but we’ll just unwire the fleece, pop the new corn in, and then rewire it.
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- We've moved!Please come and catch up with progress...
- Extreme weather allotment growing
- Allotment potatoes
- Greenhouse pollinating
- End of month recipe: Caramelised Onions
- Fingering onions
- Allotment windbreaks
- Allotment horror story
- Allotment mulches
- Water, weeds and wintry weather on the allotment
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