Sunday, 17 March 2019

Cold start to spring

So a couple of weeks back, we had nice warm temperatures. In February. But since then it's been a combination of rain, wind or the odd named storm... or two.

So trips down the allotment have been sporadic at best and mostly consisted of dashing in, dropping off the kitchen waste in the compost and then heading for home to warm up. Yesterday the weather was abysmal. But today should have been better. We it started off with a short hail storm, but there was plenty of sunshine promised.

The Daffs are in full flower. In fact this photo I grabbed last week but they're still going strong.

The Rhubarb is also starting to poke it's head out.

But if you think back a few years I had another rhubarb that was given away to friend of mine. Well look how well that one is doing on her plot.

There are many different varieties of rhubarb, and I honestly have no idea what mine is because it was already on the plot when I took it over all those years ago. All I know is that it's a regular guaranteed production which is utilised by me mostly as a jam, in combination with ginger.

We tried growing ginger this winter. We managed to get it to sprout quite well and had a stem some 20cm tall with a couple of leaves on it. But for some reason it never got any bigger and eventually died. Now we did keep it quite warm, in the kitchen, but whether it was too close to the window and got hit by a cold snap I can;t be sure, Either way, our attempt to grow our our ginger failed... for now. We'll try again later in the year and see how that goes.

Meanwhile the George that we kept in the kitchen, on top of the cupboards, had reached the end of it's "shelf" life. So it's time to cut it up and get hold of the seeds. But Muppet here, forgot to bring the knife. Fortunately a shovel does the trick, albeit one that's rather dirty.

Other than that, it's a little cold and windy out to be doing much. I did end up clearing some of the weeds in the onion bed. This bed was a sea of green, so although it doesn't look like I've taken a lot of weeds out, I removed two buckets of weeds.

By the time we'd done that (and had a good old chat over coffee with other allotmenteers) there were some serious dark clouds looming, so we thought that it would be best to call it a day. By the time we got home we had a huge hail storm, which turned the top of the car white as if it had snowed. Just as well we missed that. I can only hope that we get some decent weather soon.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Sunny Day for Cleaning

Well now. There's a surprise. A brilliantly sunny and warm day in February. Just the sort of day to highlight how much work we have to do on the plot to get ready for this year's growing season.

Our two greenhouses are in a bit of a state. They need a damn good clean. But the problem there is that the water to the site is still turned off. There are ways around that of course, but only for the small greenhouse. The bigger one will have to suffice with just a sweep-up for now and will have to face a big wash later in the year.

The big greenhouse has the wooden work bench in it.

The smaller has just plain shelving racks.

The small greenhouse was washed down inside. Easy enough to wash the windows, but trying to rinse off the suds if not so easy. Fortunately a watering can with a rose fitted to the end and large amounts of swinging it around to splash the water up onto the roof panes managed to do the trick. It now looks much, much better in there. It is surprising how much of the bloom from tomatoes gets onto the glass.

The big greenhouse just got a general sweep out.

There was plenty of weeding to be down outside as well. We removed a whole mess of weeds that were infesting some of the paths between beds. As well as starting a new compost heap to deposit said weeds in. After that we liberally made use of the huge wood chip pile to put down a thick layer of chips. These will get more added as they settle.

There are also some other areas which need attention. The willow fence that I made as seen better days. But as the new tenants of plot 29 have seen fit to completely chop down the willow tree, I'm not sure where I'll be able to get replacements, if at all.

I might be able to rescue part of it, but it may end up in the fire.

Slowly but surely, we're bringing the plot back to life. It's going to be a while but I have some holiday booked off in a couple of weeks, so we can get things sorted. Meanwhile, the Daffs are going full speed ahead to bring the first flowers to the plot.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A slow New Year

Did nothing happen during January? Well, pretty much. January is such a cold miserable time down the plot. Nothing did really get done.

That's not to say that we didn't visit. After all there is only so much organic stuff we can keep in the kitchen before it festers into a rotting, mould strewn pile of smelly... so yes we did pop down the plot every weekend to offload or kitchen waste into the compost bin and generally keep an eye on things, but it has been just a little bit too cold and damp to do any actual work down there.

So when February rolls round, then it's time to make a start down there again. But last week was a wash out because I caught a cold and ended up snuffling and shivering in bed. Coughing so hard that I actually lost my voice. So now we have this weekend, and this time my wife is cursing, because it's her who now has my cold and can't get out and about. But I had allotment shop duty this week so I had to do my stint down there.

It all looks a little wild down there are the moment. There has definitely been an incursion of weeds into most of the beds. Hardly surprising as we haven't been around to maintain the place. But it's not so bad. Nothing a couple of hours with a spade couldn't fix.

Mr Fox has been having a dig into one of the compost bins. Fortunately not the one with all the yuck in it, no this was the "soil conditioner" tub. I piled all the loose soil and some of the weeds into the bin. Mixed in with the spent soil from the potato bags should have given everything a mix through and allowed it to become useful again this year. And Mr Fox has dug a lot of the loose stuff out and broken up the dried chunks from last year so it's ready to be used in pots, trays and beds again.

The council (or at least, the company working on behalf of the council) have visited and cleared out the waste bays. However they have left the place in an absolute mess. Their equipment has churned up the central area into a muddy quagmire. There is no chance of pushing a wheelbarrow through those ruts.

On the plus side, the wood chip bay is now fully stocked with wood chips. So much so that it's overflowing into said quagmire.

But alas, I can't really stay long. A quick water of the strawberries we have over wintering in the greenhouse and I have to get back to a sick wife. I'm sure the plot will be there for a later time. There is still plenty of stuff to do... when it's warmer and we're fitter.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

End of year roundup

Once again, the end of another year and it looks really damp and dismal down the plot.

Time to reflect on the highs and lows of the year. And this year did not disappoint. That summer! Wow! Hottest ever. Put paid to a lot of crops, and boosted others. But lets give a blow by blow account of what happened.

January - Tree trimming. There is now a new path alongside of us. Traditionally on the East Side Allotments there has only been paths between each second allotments. Which meant that there was a path between Plot 29 and 30. There has never been a path between 30 and 31. But because of the way the new woodchip and manure bays have been built, there was a small piece of unused ground. To compensate for me taking over that small section I had to build a path to the very back of the plots. Which means that the tree needed to be chopped. So it got cut back allowing you to walk unhindered along the path. But the committee were not quite satisfied with it and said that even more had to be cut off. This will have to wait until next January.
February - I was still building extra beds at the front of the plot. We now finally have our full compliment of beds... at the front and centre. We still need something doing for the rear of the plot. Guess what next Feb's job is?
March - Wow. The Beast from the East blew in. Super cold, but I was still putting the last touches of beds in along the new section by the manure and woodchip bays. I still need to do some work along there as the grass seems to have a very strong hold and it will need digging out before too long. We also held our annual spring clean down the plot.
April - Now we're getting somewhere. This is when the most of the spring planting and seeds gets done, but the month started really wet. Once again I had a week off work to do a whole load of stuff down the allotment. During that week, although we didn't know it, the seeds were also sown for the weather for the rest of the year. We had the hottest April on record since 1949. Oh dear, at the time we didn't know what was coming along in our future.
May - Now we're transplanting and potting on our seedlings. But we're also struggling under the heat. For a change we actually had a sunny May Bank Holiday. We quickly ran out of room in the greenhouse and had to start getting stuff outside. Of course, once that happened it was feeding time for the slugs.
June - Time for strawberries. Oh, end of strawberries too. The heat caused the strawberries to suddenly put forth a whole load of fruit, then stop producing altogether towards the end of the month. This also had effects on other crops as well, such as the Potatoes.
July - By now we were starting to flag under the heat. Not only the constant watering, but I was also facing redundancy from my job. After 9.5 years I was laid off at the end of the month. But we did get to see our first melon. It was only a rough trial just to see if it was possible. But it worked.
August - New month, and a new job. Had a week off between leaving on and starting the other. Spent most of it down the allotment... watering. Once again, we seem to be having issues with our carrots. They're forked into looking like the spawn of Cthulhu. Still, they were pretty good in soups. The long dry month also meant we could spend a lot of time in the evenings down there. Mostly with a BBQ. Over the year we held 5 BBQs. I suspect that we may be doing the same again next year.
September - We're in full blown harvest. The Courgettes were cranking... I didn't keep count this year, but it must have been way over 100. The sweetcorns were so-so. the "Organic" variety we had didn't amount to much, but our regular variety did well. But still no good for eating on the cob. But the Chillies... wow. That long hot summer did absolute wonders for them.
October - Now things are starting to come to an end. We did find a load of extra squashes and such. Whilst our Courgettes did they're usual thing and cranked out a shed load, our Honey Bear Squashes didn't really amount to much. Yes they produced some fruits, but to be honest the taste of them was extremely bland and... meh. But something to consider for next year, or any year.
November - By now everything was over. Yes there was the odd thing here or there to tide us over such as beetroots and carrots, but now it's mostly down to putting the beds to sleep for the winter (courtesy of a large delivery of manure and wood chips) and making sure everything is battened down ready for winter.
December - Meh. Nothing. We don't really do over-winter veg. It not something we really aspire to. Of course we keep popping down the allotment every week to drop off our compost scraps and see if Frankie is still around, but other than the Chard and the Strawberries, we don't have anything planned for winter. I suppose we could consider Kale, but the last tine we did that, the damn pigeons scoffed it all. Maybe we need a caged area?

So what went well?
Tomatoes - They took off like a shot. We ended up giving a lot of them away. Though we have kept a lot of seeds, but we're probably going to try some other varieties next year.

Chillies - The long hot summer was perfect for chillies. Like the Tom's, we've kept a load of seeds so we're going to try to lay in a stock of dried chillies for the next decade.

Courgettes - Does anything stop these? Well yes, slugs. But after they've grown too big for slugs to attack then they just keep cranking them out.

Rhubarb - Our trusty rhubarb has done it again. Well next year we may have our very own addition to jam making. We have three Ginger Plants growing in the kitchen at home, so here's to making our own Rhubarb and Ginger Jam.

Soy Beans - The trick with the toilet rolls worked wonders. We has a full crop of them and they were excellent. Same again next year please.

Pak choi - Never really had much luck, but this year, growing them in the troughs in the greenhouse worked wonders. Have to try that trick again, but of course the real trick is getting them not to bolt.

And what failed?
Onions - We've not really had good luck with onions. But we're hoping that the Stuttgarters will do better. We'll have to see.
Potatoes - The long hot summer meant that they lacked water. As such they came out rather small. On the plus side though, there was no evidence of blight on the plots this year.
Sweetcorn - Well they were OK. But especially good, but the ones meant to be best for corn-on-the-cob just didn't produce properly. Was it the weather? Lack of rain? Possibly.
Cape Gooseberries - Something else I'll have to put down to the weather. They just didn't set theit fruit.
Peas - Didn't even germinate. Maybe I should do the toilet roll trick with these next year?
Beans - Well two of them did germinate... out of 36. Not a good success rate.

Obviously there are a load of other things, such as the carrots, beetroots, grapes, apples and such that we grew. And don't forget the flowers. Our front pieces of the petunias were definitely a talking point.

Next year? Well we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Very wet and miserable

They've been saying for years that Winter is coming. Winter is here and it looks very wet and miserable down the plot.

We're not overwintering anything in the ground*, and we only have a few strawberry plants in the green house. Other than that there is no real reason to visit the plot on a wet Sunday.

Except of course to drop off our collection of peelings, coffee grinds, orange rinds and other assorted detritus that accumulates when you're veggies who usually make their own meals. Since we can't get down there during the week, we have to amass everything for a single trip to dump in the compost bins. So by the end of the week things are starting to get a little smelly. We could just throw it all in the food bins here at the flats, but why waste useful goodness? Everybody should be composting, no matter what time of year it is.

* OK, we have Chard, but that grows in the bed irrespective of what is happening to the rest of the world. And there is the Strawberry bed. And I suppose you could count the fact that there are onions growing as well.