Green fingers on one hand…?

Some signs of success against all the odds! We weren’t too confident of getting a huge range of products from the plot but so far, during our first full season, it’s looking like some definite progress, with the first few things being harvested.

The obvious main crop are the potatoes, and the first test plant has been dug up, producing 0.7 KG of Maris Peers. We’ve planted around 100 seed potatoes and a total of 6 varieties.

The leeks and onions are also doing well and so far some amazing growth of chard and spinach. It’s looking good for a good first year there and we’ve learned lots and managed to dig over 70% of the plot, with all the raised beds (except one) being set out and planted.

All we need now is a magic spell to stop the slimy snails and slugs plus a decent grass strimmer to make lighter work of the grass surrounding the plot.

out

Allotment (bit of) progress…

Some good, bad and really bad happenings in allotment world.

We received our 4th Constant Garden delivery from Rocket Gardens, which was full of awesome seedlings. All those were planted out in the hope of at least a few of them growing enough to be eaten. The lettuces are doing well in our garden as well as the cabbages.

I also put in the penultimate raised bed at the plot and did a load of weeding and borber grass cutting. I was dreading what it would all look like after 2 weeks away, but it didn’t look that bad – the ‘main crops’ of potatoes and leeks were doing well and a few of the other things were also strong, such as the chard, spinach and pumpkins. Wildflowers doing well and celery still alive!

There are slugs and snails everywhere! My god. I must have picked out 20+ while I was there.

Here’s to continued success, if only partial, and a massive slug and snail predator outbreak!

out

Allotment growing and digging…

I’ve had no sight of the allotment for the past two rainy weeks and was itching to get over there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managed to get the final section of the potato and onion patch dug over and carried on with the area between the potato patch and the raised beds. A new path has also been set out to the right side which gives a bit of definition.

Lots of healthy potato leaves popping up and the onions are well established. Also doing well are the various weeds! Lots of rain and mild weather has kicked them into life, so a weeding session is needed me thinks.

T-minus 1 week till the next delivery of Rocket Garden seedlings! Need more growing space!

out

Allotment potatoes & onions in…

More potatoes are now in. The first 3 rows were filled with Maris Peer and the next 1.5 rows were Nadine, all second earlies. I’ve just finished the 5th row with 10 more maris peers, this time from Rocket Gardens.

I’ve somehow got to find space for another 10 x orla (1st), 10 x charlottes (2nds), 10 x charlotte (2nds) and remarka (main). Added to this, are the ready to plant Victoria (main) x 24! We’ll be over-run with them all but most will store well.

Claire has also put in an area of shallots which have been fenced off! Again, we’ll need some more of the plot dug before all our leeks and onions can go in but we have a 3 week window before the next delivery, so the pressure is on!

out

Allotment kick-start…!

After spending months transporting manure to the plot, planning what we’ll be growing and digging 2/3 of the area, we’ve finally started setting out and planting for this season. My target of finishing the digging by Christmas wasn’t exactly met but 2/3 isn’t bad and this will give us enough space to grow a lot of vegetables.

The day before this session at the plot, we went over to Dundry Nursery and bought seeds, potatoes and onions to put in over the next few weeks. It’s a really nice nursery and very near to the little airport, with propeller planes flying over every few minutes! The boys loved that + the large blue and green parrot which they have there.

I’d made a list of the most disease-resistant potato varieties from their website (very useful btw), but two of the second earlies had already sold out (Fabula and Milva) but we did get the Victoria main crop variety. We also picked up Maris Peer (2nd early) and Nadine (2nd early), which we’re chitting on various window sills, ready for planting in a few weeks.

We’ve also been reading up on the whole potato process but every author seems to have a different version of the timings. Monty Don seemed to have the best approach, which is just adapt the planting to the weather. He does set out some fairly precise planting tips, which also seem sensible.

Anyway, that was a good trip out in the new car and that late afternoon I went up to the plot and was digging for a straight hour until it got dark. I got some nice sunset, bird and moon images and it was a brilliant time in the peace and quiet.

The next sunny and warm day (and it’s late February!!) was spent for a couple of hours at the plot, digging, trans-planting raspberry plants, setting out spaces, aligning raised beds, shifting logs, scattering pot ash. The boys were amazing and very patient and helpful. Jamie was raking the ground which now looks brilliant and Jac was digging around and collecting water!

Both boys were also painting the shed and Claire managed to finally get our plot number painted on there, which is one of the requirements of the allotment (having the plot number displayed).

Defining the areas has really helped us get an idea of what we have to do and it makes it all more doable. There is now only a couple of hours digging left to complete the main potato/onion/leek growing area and enough space to the side to experiment with the three sisters approach, where beans are grown up corn, with pumpkins grown between. Lots of wild and other flowers will be going in to help pollination and more edging and plot defining to be done!

Can’t wait to get up there again. Just hope my back stays strong! : )

out

Allotment planning…

This is my first attempt at thinking about which plants could go into the allotment (in a systematic way anyway) and I drew out a few plans with some ideas. Part of the idea of the allotment is to get as much from it as possible, including lots of staple foods, such as potatoes, onions and beans. These are all cheap to buy but come with lots of transport miles + it’s far more rewarding to grow things yourself.

There also has to be some variety in there and different people from the two families will have different things they want to grow. This is another reason why raised beds are good, as each one can be given over to a single plant and treated differently, according to what each plant needs. It also makes it easier to set things out and plan what to do. The beds are about 50 cms apart right now but this should probably go down to around 30 cms, to use the space better.

So, the main open area can be for the bulky crops, while also introducing the idea of the three sisters method, which uses a combination of corn, beans and squashes. This comes from native american culture and provided them with carbohydrates, proteins and lots of nutrients.

Mounds are built up, every metre or so, with the corn planted right in the middle. The beans are then planted next to the corn, with the squashes growing in the hollows around each mound. Water will run off into the hollows (and moisture collect there) and provide the more water-thirsty squashes with the water they need. The corn provides a stable frame for the beans to grow up (apparently), with the squashes providing ground cover to stop weeds growing, as well as giving them the roaming space they need.

But, also importantly, the beans fix nitrogen via their root nodules and replace the used nitrogen from the soil, therefore improving the overall health of the soil. The other idea is to use this combination as part of a 3 year rotation, by moving this area along the plot every year, so that the beans improve the soil following the growing of potatoes, onions, carrots and leeks. We’ll still have to use manure etc but this will help the process. The rotation system also reduces soil diseases and lowers the incidence of pests, which cannot get established given the changing plants.

In the open ground area, it could be mainly potatoes, onions, carrots and leeks, combined with the 3 sisters grouping of corn, beans and squashes. If the plot is split into thirds, this would relate to the 3 year rotation idea. The potatoes could be in a block on their own, with the next section being onions, with a split between carrots and leeks. The leeks would relate better to the roaming squashes and because they grow up, as opposed to onions which collapse over the ground, this could lead to less problems with squash leaves blocking light. There could also be a wooden partition between the 3 sisters area and the others, to keep the squashes in their area. Claire’s Dad has built a box type area for his pumpkins which he says works well.

This approach would allow 7 types of plant to be grown in the open ground, with various varieties possible. I’m keen to grow both red and white onions, as well as a couple of types of potatoes. The same goes for the beans and there could be both pumpkins and butternut squash. There could easily be 11 different varieties in there.

In the raised beds, the ideas so far are cherry tomatoes, broccoli & purple sprouting, peas, baby carrots, cucumbers, spring onions, strawberries and courgettes, or others depending on what people want. Each can have it’s own raised bed.

The other part of the planting should be insect-attracting flowers, which will boost the pollination of the other plants in the allotment. These could include English lavender, poppies and English marigolds. On the plan, these are placed next to the open ground, in the middle of the plot, therefore hopefully attracting insects right into the growing space. I also love the look of sunflowers, which can be grown around the shed, as well as the poppies which could be scattered a bit more randomly around the plot.

There is also an area on the right side, by the shed, which could be given over to fruit bushes, such as raspberries.

We’ve also just been given a really good wooden window from my Dad, which will be fitted into the frame of the shed. This will let loads of light into the space and make it useable for a variety of things, such as a kids play house. This will probably go within the space of the old doorway (as there is already a space for it), which is on the sunny growing side of the plot. This will mean more space to grow things by the shed. A new doorway will be made which opens onto the seating area.

I’ll remove all the corrugated rusty metal panels and replace with the KP’s old shed wood panels, which will make the whole thing look great and will be safer, with no sharp rusty edges.

out

Exciting garden…

Ok, I know there’s a garden over-kill on this blog right now, but it’s the most exciting time of year. Things are growing quickly and we’re starting to get some fruits of our planning and labour.

So far we’ve had loads of salad and the first batch of onions. Lots of amazing lavender in the front and the courgettes look like they’re thriving (as usual!). We’re about to get loads of tomatoes and soon the potatoes + hopefully some corn on the cob! The borlotti beans are climbing the string at the front well and there is an amazing sunflower out as well.

out

Salad & garden…

Lots of cool garden stuff happening. Most importantly are Claire’s salad plants and our first salad of the year! Watercress, Basil & flowers, Parsley, Coriander and mixed leaves.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also managed to get 5 hanging baskets up and planted with tumbling toms – 2 plants in each, which Claire has grown from seed. Last year I grew loads of Ananas Noire (Black Pineapple toms) and they were awesome, so i’m really looking forward to the tomato experience already!

Also got the second wood store nearly done, just need a roof! I’ll make another one of those and that should be enough for the larger logs.

Finally, i’m really really happy that both the Apple and Elder trees are sprouting lovely healthy leaves, following their rather savage pruning in January. Oh yes, and the Onions are doing really well in the raised beds & Potatoes are coming up!

out