Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

I can't believe how fast we have arrived at 2010, time just seems to whiz by as I get older. Also being lashed to the unfaltering programme of school terms makes the seasons change with pace. So its a Happy New Year to everyone from green patch hope the year changes to give great growing seasons to you all.

I failed with some of last years resolu
tions I wanted to go to Harlow Carr & to the Malvern Show, I managed neither. I though I could reuse them for this year, how cheeky but I would like to recycle more.

Mostly for this year I want to plant more flowers, get my spuds in earlier and take more photographs.

I can't wait to see what the new year and
decade brings.

( A little bit of 'spooks' ending in case anyone is conducting surveillance on whether I sort out the storage box)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

'tis the season


If you wander down to your patch at this time of year it is fair to say that you are most likely to be there on your own. Sunday in the last drops of remaining light we dug a little more for about half an hour. It does make a difference little and often. As the temperatures are dropping this week and there may be frozen ground on the way - I still feel optimistic.

A little job that I must do this weekend is to sort the grow house out if I can't get to the patch. Whatever I do I will have to shoehorn it in between all the Christmas preparations.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Advent


Last year buy the time I read the Guardian family section advent had already begun. I had missed the boat. They suggested to have little envelopes with things to do in to make advent fun and it would in many cases be things you would do anyway. I thought it was a great idea. I know that Mrs Be did do this and I think it must have gone well. Are you doing it again this year?

So this year I was prepared for today. I had checked some events in the local paper. I bought envelopes and decorated them in time and tonight the first activity is done - a Santa letter. It was jam packed with the usual wild expectations of a soon to be seven year old. Nevertheless the letter is ready to post.

Other activities are as simple, a little cooking or putting up decorations etc. At this time of year there is minimal gardening that can be used for the calendar. I resisted the temptation to say that Santa won't come unless you dig the allotment. I have put in to plant an amaryllis and make some decorations from some hedgerow finds hopefully that will be enough.

Well lets get all xmastastic!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Positive direction


I had the most wonderful feeling as I left the patch today. It almost leaped out of me and danced down the path in front of me. Green patch is starting to look like a proper allotment. Why the glee? Several areas are now dug. This is the most advanced I have been at this point in the year ever.

I have even built a little bonfire ready for when it is dry. Could be a celebratory fire or is that a little pagan.

Now just one more weekend where I can work on the patch before true winter sets in, plus a chance to get some broad beans into the ground. I'll definitely be satisfied. Then I'll be ready to retreat to the cosy planning of next year.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Did some digging

This time of year can be a little dull to blog about.


Every year since I have had the allotment I have wished that I had done more autumn digging as I have lost time trying to dig heavy cold frozen soil in the late winter/early spring. At the moment I can have more hope in my heart that this is the year when that happens.

On Sunday I dug a large area over it took about two hours despite the ground being soft and light at the moment.
John promises me he will dig an area for me at the weekend it's been undercover and never been dug so just turning it to let the frost in to break it up would be enough.

If I am over my cold I plan to hoe around the field beans (my green manure for the winter - 'not a weed suppressant' I think looking at it). Also might clear the sweetcorn and peas on the main bed I'm wondering if I should get some manure down too on this bed where I can.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A creative gap


I had been looking forward to yesterday for a long while - a day to myself. Funnily rather than fill it with shopping or pampering, something I threaten to do but when it comes down to it never want to do, I went on a workshop. As part of the Cambridge festival of Ideas I had a go at intaligo printing, all for free! I have never done this before and had no idea what to expect. At the end of the day I had etched and printed my first ever plate. I felt very relaxed and happy as I headed home.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Garlic


I have planted out four types of garlic, yes four different types. Why this extravagance you may ask?

Well I'm not sure. I use garlic in my cooking but generally its been the bog standard supermarket garlic. On holiday this year in the Isle of Wight we visited the garlic farm. It was here that I lost control and went wild with my wallet.


I bought 3 jars of chutney after a marathon tasting session to ensure that they were the three I liked the best. Plus some garlic to sow. After a period of indecision (we were in the shop a very long time all in all) I chose solent wight, lautrec wight and Provence wight bulbs for sowing.

Each of these garlics should have a different taste when we get to eat them. As I broke the bulbs apart you can really smell the difference between the varieties. I love their white papery skin and the shiny veneer of each clove. When I was younger one of the favorite drawings that I made was of a garlic plait the texture and bulbous shapes were fun to draw.

The Garlic farm is worth a visit if you are ever over there - time it right and you can take some garlic back home to grow. The farm has a few boards about growing and the history of garlic, but because of our timing we didn't see any garlic actually growing. They provide excellent planting instructions with your purchase and it even has recipes for roasting which I might have to try. I now realise that they are on the net so if this lot of planting prove to be good then I can order again next year. Mind you I would rather have the excuse to go back to the Isle of Wight again.

A work colleague of John's donated some elephant garlic to us to make up the fourth variety this is very mild compared to other garlic but is supposed to be good for roasting.

I also planted out my radar onions today.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

stormy moonlight


All that big talk and a hopeful to do list in the last post means nothing when all I can manage is about 30 mins down at the patch. Had to squeeze that in at the end of the day, and it's definitely October as it gets dark really early now!

So I ticked off 2 items, planted the field beans and the crocus it will be next autumn that they make an appearance so I think I might need to get a little sign made so that I remember where I planted them, then I won't dig them up inadvertently.

I did go to the Allotment Association AGM last night it was quite interesting as they had a talk from the head gardener at Wimpole Hall about the walled garden and it's restoration. I adored the sepia photos from the 1920's which showed the herbaceous borders in their full glory.

There will be no gardening tomorrow as I am off to Stowe Gardens on a photography trip, I may have some shots to show if I'm lucky

Friday, 2 October 2009

focus with the to do list



Often my progress can be a little random down at the patch. Do a bit of this, ooh look at that, fiddle, become distracted, go home remember what I should have done.

This approach is a complete nightmare when time is against you before you know it weeks have past and little has changed. So before I know it winter will have set in and even less gets done then and I always feel like I'm on the back foot playing catch up against nature.

Where I live was one of the driest places in the country during September and the patch is like a dust bowl at the moment. So digging is not easy but as I have previously said I need to fit in as much as possible in the Autumn so of course it suffices to say that digging is always on my to do list at the moment.

For this weekend the list looks like this:
  • plant young (spring) cabbage plants out
  • sow radar onions sets
  • plant garlic (from the Isle of Wight hope to post about this soon in more detail)
  • sow field beans as green manure
  • Sow crocuses (from Saffron Walden)
  • start Owens bulbs off in pot at home
Tonight is the allotment association AGM I have never been to one before and am not sure that I will go. The only reason I think I want to go is in case they discuss plot holder who are poor at cultivation - I suspect that I would fall into that category although I can't see it as an agenda item so I'm not sure I will need to defend my actions.

Evidence of my poor cultivation skills is definitely mounting, I grew from seed with love and attention summer purple sprouting broccoli, the plants have been good and strong. I was so hopeful. The moment the purple heads appeared the plants have immediately exploded into flower - as in the picture. Is this because September was so dry?

Monday, 28 September 2009

Compost change


Autumn jobs are usually hard work only broken up by harvesting various crops.

Where I think I have gone wrong in the previous two seasons is not to get on with the autumn digging. There are several areas that I want to dig before the ground freezes. Last weekend I dug over the areas where my potatoes had been. I want to put this area into immediate use for garlic and radar onions.

One of the jobs that I wanted to do immediately was move both my darlek compost bins. I have decided to move them to the spot where the nettles are on the edge of the really wild area. It makes sense as we will be using the patch more effectively. The problem with this is that one of them was really full. After tipping it over I got to see the quality of the compost. Initially I was a little disappointed. After clearing some of the unrotted debris I found dark rich compost. There was lots of it. I had the dilemma of what to do with it, as I have no wheelbarrow.

Thinking on my feet I have spread it out as a mulch on the area where the bins were as this area I want to make into a new bed as it gets sun for longer than some of the other areas. I sprinkled bran on the top just to give the slugs a surprise if they go for it as a warm winter hideout. I went back this evening and covered the area with some ground cover fabric.

I must now restart my chicken poo supply from the neighbour as I think this really made a difference to the speed and quality of the compost.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Photogram


Just to prove that I have been busy on the photography front, here is a photogram of a bean pod (borlotti bean I think)

It was done in a darkroom (the green colour has been added in photoshop afterwards)

One hour


One hour, really it is not enough time. If you are me, you do just have to catch what you can, when you can and when you are in the mood and just be glad of it. That is how I can still love my allotment and stop it from ever feeling like a burden. That's how I can forgive it for limited harvests or infestations. It is because it sort of survives with a large helping of benign neglect.

I had a great hour at the patch today, weeding and clearing. Soaking up the warmth of the sun and thinking about what the patch could be like next year. My fennel is looking great and should be big enough to harvest soon before any frost arrives as I imagine the frost will kill it.


However in life not everything goes so well with such levels of neglect and a blog in one of those things that needs a little bit of regular attention. I have been to the patch a bit recently and have plenty to tell you all. So what has got in the way of posting? Well I have lost a little bit of my mojo. I'm also trying to get on top of my photography plans, it has been back to school for Owen in last couple of weeks, then with sorting a 2yr olds birthday needs, as always work has been very busy. Consequently I am just so worn out in the evenings, so to master the computer problems that have emerged since my lap top died has been as much as I could manage. Still it is upwards and onwards and blog posts should become more frequent.

I have had a second horticulturally focused hour today, at the garden centre. This hour which boosted my enthusiasm five fold. It included the purchase of lots of 50p seeds from the bargain bucket. There is nothing like cheap seeds and the promise that it brings! We arrived just in the nick of time and got the last lot of free bulbs for children. The bulbs are for a competition, Its one where we plant the three little red riding hood tulips and we keep a photo diary (right up Owen's street I think) lets hope that we can manage to do this and hand it in, in May next year!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The patch holiday neglect?

So you go away for a bit of summer fun in the Isle of Wight (highly recommended for a holiday) then you come back and a quick check at the patch reveals.

  • slugs have munched my lettuce
  • my pumpkin has doubled in size
  • lots of ripe red cherry tomatoes
  • a couple of kilos of courgettes
  • beans ready to pick on the tepee's
  • a rather dry and thirsty patch
  • knee high grass (again)
  • a sea of weeds
It may not look beautiful but it is bountiful, I left green patch with lots of produce. In return I have given it a well needed drink (nettle tea for my pumpkins). I think that the green patch has manged quite well without me.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Need to find a system for watering

We were away for nine days and there was a bit of a hot spell whilst we were away.

I hadn't seen the neighbours to ask them to water the few bits on the remains of the grow house (I have taken the cover off).

I knew I would come back to devastation as the aubergine and chilli's are in pots and the tomatoes are out stripping the confines of their grow bag. I have never really looked at watering systems, I wouldn't know where to start and not sure that it is an expense I am willing to pay for a few items. I suppose I could look at low tech Heath Robinson style methods for getting around not being able to water. So let me know what you do to get around the need to water while away.

Luckily I watered them in the nick of time when I got back and they have resuscitated fairly well they are more resilient to such abuse than I thought.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Allotment Open Day

So much more enjoyable than last year our end of the site wasn't roped off.

I actually felt like I belonged to the allotment association. People talked to us. It was well attended and people were walking around looking at the plots the site completely bustled with busy people. We strimmed our plot to improve the look while we were there.

The competitions were great and in usual form we didn't manage to get our act together and put anything in.

I loved the entries for the unusual vegetable and the display of potato varieties.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

calm


Today I felt stressed, it was stressed for no particular reason, looking back I think it was mainly about when I would manage to squeeze a visit to the plot in. We wanted a whole family visit. But when meals and other events loomed and then took precedence things were pushed back. Add the heat of the day making being there with the kids difficult then we put off our plans at several points today. We haven't been down there for a week because the rain has been against us, but intense sunshine can be just as bad for my redheaded brood.

My biggest fear was what will we find? Tomorrow is the allotments open day they might have fire bombed our plot to improve the look of the site. Also the recent rain might mean that the slugs have taken control.

In the end I went down on my own after tea with no major plans in mind. I planted some pinks along side the strawberry raised bed, and I just drunk in the relaxing atmosphere of a warm evening and golden low sun. The pinks were destined for a home garden project that hasn't fully materialised and if I left them in their pots then they would be doomed to death. A shame as I had grown them from seed. The smell of pinks take me back to childhood rapidly, strangely its a smell that I hated for so many years, but now I want to grow them for the first time ever. Weirdly I love their aroma.

We will be down there tomorrow armed with a strimmer and there is stuff to crop as well

But for me it was a perfect end to the day a great destresser and a it was a good day because I heard the voice of my aussie friend and avid green patch reader. I hope you and your new addition continue getting bigger and better like my pumpkins!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

small harvest


I just love it when we get some produce from the patch, it might not be the prettiest patch but it does produce some tasty stuff. In the picture above are my lovely red lettuce (don't know the variety), yellow courgettes, asparagus peas and lovely dwarf beans.
At home I have more lettuce growing in a growbag along with pak choi. The mollusc's seem to love the pak choi as you can see. I'm desperate to grow some pak choi and this is the second year of trying, so fingers crossed.

In the grow house I think my first chilli is forming.


Today I sowed some spring cabbage 'durham early' it might be just as well to be sowing these because my winter cabbage is looking dire, the cabbage white caterpillars and pigeons have given them a bashing.

Looking to the week ahead I think I'm going to get more done this week at the allotment (weather obliging) as I have a little time after work. I have fennel to plant out and some late running butternut squash. The pumpkins are forming down at the patch and I need to limit the number of fruit on each plant so I will have to look closely at them. I put a 'wanted' onto freecycle for some wall tiles which looks like it is going to be filled - the plan is to put the fruits on the tiles to stop them rotting from underneath I think Matron gave this tip out last year.

I'll rephrase and say I'm excited about the week ahead!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

little bit of a break in blogging

Recently I hit the point of thinking I had nothing to say, for the last few weeks a lot of what I have been doing is a list of rather dull allotment tasks. The boys have been good an obliging when I have been at the patch which although unusual I wouldn't knock it! It is a shame that other things in my daily life have consumed too much of my time and writing a post just became hard to do.

Also who really wants to read a whining list of crop failures? or other irritations? as I think that is all I would have had for you.


For example I might have bleated further about my poor crop of strawberries it totalled about 6, is this normal? I'm sure I got more when I was a child from some 'portskewet' ( its not a variety) strawberry plants in their first year.

This time of year it should be all about bountiful crops and beautiful flowers. Alas never from the green patch.

I have been horticultural in other ways but not at the plot. I visited a nearby village for their open gardens I had a great time and was surprised by what I found, in one garden we turned the corner and walked into a meadow! Our school gardening club has won a silver in the town's 'in bloom' competition which is absolutely fantastic, and makes helping the teacher even more worthwhile. The kids were so proud. We also raised a good bit on the stall at the summer fair which will be ploughed straight back in to the club. We have now set the standard for next year so its going to be hard work to maintain our standard and we do hope to better it you understand.

Today I played a four hour game of catch up at the allotment. Weeding was the most essential and annoying activity. In addition to this I have sorted out the runner beans especially the ones that don't have canes to climb and I rigged some string between the canes for them. I have tried to pin down the strawberry runners. I harvested the end of the broad beans then cleared the area. I planted brussels out and my late sown peas in their toilet rolls. I collected chicken poo from my local source for the composter. I dug up a row of spuds and picked my first three yellow courgettes.
The pushchair trug is back in action.

I got a little bit sun kissed despite sunscreen grrrr.

These are my husbands new wellies getting a good work out.


I am glad to say things are looking better and a couple of visits more and soon might get things well ahead. This week hopefully the parts for our broken strimmer will arrive and that will help sort the paths.

These are the remainder of my salmon flowered peas that had gone over, I plan to save the seed for next year they are now hanging in my kitchen. As my kichen is the size of most peoples utlility room I don't think they will be there for long.

Take a look at the garlic for me, I think it has rust, if so can I eat the bulbs?




Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Filling those gaps

That time has come where it is time to find things to sow which will fill the gaps where things have failed on the allotment. This year I have been a little wiser about my sowing for example not direct - as this only makes a banquet of young leaves for the slugs to eat. I know the seed packets say sow direct but I need to keep a beady eye on them and I am making use of the space in the grow house. So I have a tray of Romaine lettuce which has just germinated. Tonight I've sown pak choi and fennel.

Roll on making those spaces work.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

the view from the patch


It has been a very hot and busy day and on my second visit to the patch this is the view that made me feel serene and at one with the patch. That was the original reason for getting the patch to give me a space to relax in and to be productive. I love the stillness and soft light on summers evening at the patch, I could even lose track of time if I was allowed to. I would also love to be floating (champange in hand) in that balloon

I'm still planting things out at the plot, today I put my three 'jack edwards' climbing beans out, only three out of nine seeds germinated. I feel a little sad aout the sucess rate as these are seeds from the seed swap and I might not be able to save seed to swap back. One thing I am proud of are my celariac plants they look so lush and shiny green but it has to be said that they are so so so slow at growing. I hope the slugs don't get them (like last years mini celariac) as I am looking forward to seeing them grow.


One rather stinky job I had to do was to decant my nettle 'tea' brew the bucket it was in was emitting an aroma across several plots distance and the flies were swarming. I poured it into a milk carton and it has a sludgey green colour and is think. It has probably been brewing for a month now so what do you think Mrs Be ok to go?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

A photo never lies

Here are the first produce I have taken off the allotment. The aroma is fantastic. However they have been cunningly positioned to hide the slug or perhaps bird bites.


I am a little irritated with the local garden centre at the moment. These strawberries were supposed to be a late variety 'symphony' I picked them specifically to be later. Now we haven't had Wimbledon yet so how can they be a late variety?

The same garden centre when I asked them about the cranberry I bought (yes admittedly an impulse purchase so I should take what I get) told me it was suitable for the local soil, now I have found out it needs ericacous grrrrr. It is not happy so how am I going to help it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Quiet chugging

I've not really had time to post for the last few weeks and I'm not really sure why, but I suppose, if I look back I've been burning the candle at both ends trying to squeeze things in. Another reason for not posting is probably because a lot of what I have been doing down at the patch has been a long list of chores and therefore a little dull.

I have heard nothing since the day of rectification passed, no letters, no nods or winks from the members of the allotment association who may be in the know. I have no idea if I met the standard and I don't think there is much more I can do. It's funny though when you talk to other plot holders quite a few of them have had letters. Some of the more long toothed plot holders imply that there is little more that will happen as it's just muscle flexing. Well I'm not sure, but I am chugging on as I intended anyway.


I got absolutely soaked on Sunday and had to abandon these dwarf beans 'Empress of Russia' down at the plot in the guttering that I had grown them in. I did manage to get then into the ground yesterday. I'm excited to see what they turn out like.

I got by first delivery of chicken poo this weekend my source is my neighbours over the back, it looks like it will be a regular supply. I have just bunged it in the darlek on the plot and hope that will be OK. I'm not very expert at the composting. Having chickens near by is great. Now if I do get a glut of produce (possibly unlikely) then maybe I can swap for fresh eggs which would be a cool deal.

My seedlings in the grow house are starting to diminish as they get planted out so I made a couple chilli plant purchases at the county show I thought that they would do well in the grow house over the summer. One is a jalapeno and one is a lemon drop I have very little knowledge of the different varieties and ease of growing so we shall see.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Rectified?

Well tomorrow is the big day its the day by which I need to have the plot sorted according to that nasty letter I had a little while ago

You can view the plot from every angle here, I took the shots tonight as evidence. Lets hope it is enough. Well what do you think, be honest, am I cultivated enough?

Monday, 25 May 2009

a bigger weekend

I love bank holidays it is an extra day for the weekend and extra time to be busier in, as I always try to do lots of nice things as well as chores. With weather like we have had this weekend it would be wrong not to make the most of it.

So I have squeezed a lot of visits to the plot in around all the other fun, I suppose this activity is necessary because I know that the deadline is approaching, and because their is a lot to do so that we will have enough to harvest later in the year. I am running behind. Also seeing Chelsea all week makes me wish for a lusher more cultivated patch.

We live only a few miles from Wimpole Hall and have visited so many times. I never tire of it, for some reason we have never looked at the walled garden (the vegi bit) before now. We have spent loads of time in the formal gardens and walking over the wider grounds. It was lovely the heat from the brick walls was palpable. The gardens had lots of interesting things to see such as the little apricot fruits on the trees and a range of scarecrows. They also had plants for sale and I thought a tray or two of lettuce would add to the look of the plot and at a pound a throw it seemed reasonable

So here are my Wimpole lettuces in a shot taken from the ground as per my tiny plot's suggestion. I quite like the angle and view - its probably the view the slugs will see just before they munch them!


Also I'm really chuffed as on the plot my salmon flowered peas are flowering and this is the furthest I have managed to get with growing peas so far. I'm so excited we might get to eat our own peas. Today I received a lot of brassicas from my mum, in exchange for her grandson for the week what a good half term deal eh?



Sunday, 17 May 2009

A wet day finally



Wet at last, all week the rain has been promised but very little has fallen here. It sort of seems like it has been skirting around us, in fact I have been concerned that the allotment was about to turn into a dust bowl. It seems a little annoying that when I has time to spend at the allotment I had to do it in this mornings showers. I still managed a three hour stint.

'Operation make sure the plot looks cultivated' is in full flow.
  • I've done some digging
  • I have also covered the area for the butternut squash with a mulch of horse poo, newspaper and grass clippings I plan to dig it in a few weeks
  • planted out artichoke and cauliflower plants (spontaneous purchase they were in the 50p bargain bucket section of the garden centre)
  • sown some mexican hats for a little flower border.
Next week its time to put 'operation tidy up' in to action. Yes lads we are getting ready for the big push on the 29th. Military planning is what will get me through inspection. Oh and the help of a squadron of soldiers, pass me the yellow pages somebody.