Monday, 29 April 2013

camellia update

I had a sick looking camellia back end of last year
This is how it looks now.  I took the sick leaves off, so it looks a bit spindly, but it managed to produce some flowers.

(On examining the two pictures, I see that there is a bit of wood that has been lying there for over six months.  What an untidy person I am!)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

mystery squash update

We have a flower! The sooner the weather warms up, the sooner I can put it outside or at least into the greenhouse.   It is going to need room to sprawl as the stem is so slim it won't support the weight of a fully grown squash. If it ever warms up I can plant it in my hugelkultur bed.  If it ever warms up...

Saturday, 27 April 2013

It is still pretty cold, the temperature is dropping down to 3 or 4C at night, the allotment's greenhouses are full of baby plants, lettuce,  peas, sweet peas and sweet corn that we are waiting to be able to plant out.  I don't want a repeat of last year, when I planted out the sweet peas and they never recovered.  Looking back at my diary we seem to be having similar temperatures as this time last year but without the incessant rain.
I put the cloche over the seeds I sowed last week.
I finished planting out the sprouted onions and did some good work around the beds with the little onion hoe.  (It is a really useful addition to my garden tools, especially now I have more raised beds.)

Friday, 26 April 2013


Moorbank is looking particularly pretty today

Would be even prettier if I could hold the phone steady while I pressed the button, I don't have this problem with the camera.

I spent the morning weeding, pulling out couch grass and horsetail, I'm glad I haven't got those in my garden.

I was up early as it was my turn on the plant scheme rota,so before I went to Moorbank I went to the allotments to water the greenhouses.  And while I was at the plot I planted a few of the sprouting onions which I bought a couple of weeks ago.  They've got good healthy roots on them, it would be nice if they transplant successfully.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Pram rocks!

The Pram....embracing its new life as a plant transport.

And it works well too, it glided smoothly over the rocky paths of the allotments without loosening a seedling.  I reckon I can shift three times as many seed trays with The Pram as on foot.  Its just a pity I hadn't done this sooner as the seedling moving season is winding down.  But I'm sure it will be useful for other things, for now I just have to put up with jibes from jealous fellow plotholders.

I discovered while at the plot, that one of my hosepipes has developed several terminal kinks during the winter and now splits at the slightest stress and soaks my trousers at every opportunity, so that is a new hose needed, so I thought.  I went to clear a space in the garage for The Pram (I am going to have to freegle the bike) and what did I find?  A hosepipe! And a better one than the old one!  That was a hand-me-down too so it is just recycling city here.

What with getting a mini-greenhouse and a tomato growhouse from Wilko's for £2.50 apiece, it has been a very successful day all round.

Monday, 22 April 2013


Well I'm getting a bit fed up with traipsing (is that how it is spelt?) back and forward to the allotment with trays of seedlings for the trading hut plant scheme,  The trouble is that the most I can carry at once is 4 module trays.  So I thought "Aha! what I need is a pram!" (A car would be best, but a bit expensive) Suggestions have been supermarket trolley, wheelbarrow, or shopping trolley, none of which will transport trays of plants over bumpy pavements without scattering compost and jiggling the baby plants about.
So I put a Wanted on Freegle two days ago and amazingly someone has replied, and lives near enough to me to walk the pram home. It was a faint hope because you just don't see prams anymore, and I thought that if one did come up it would be miles away and need a taxi to go and get it, but no! Miraculously, it is just a couple of streets away in Arthurs Hill!
I collect it tomorrow, I'm quite excited!

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Its a monster! But lonely.

We are going to have it for dinner with our pukka pie and carrots and peas. Hey, living the good life eh?

Friday, 19 April 2013

psb sprouting, new gooseberry bed

There are some sprouts on the purple sprouting broccolli, not purple though.  I'm sure I looked last week and there was nothing happening.  Things are really trying to catch up after the cold spring.
 The raspberry bed is no more and we have a gooseberry bed instead.  Out of the two pots of cuttings given to me by a fellow plotholder, there was 6 well rooted green gooseberry plants, and a red gooseberry plant. I think I will take out the single survivor from last year, it is struggling, it obviously didn't appreciate being waterlogged for weeks on end and I have plenty of others now.  In fact, I am not sure whether I really need 7 gooseberry bushes let alone 8!

The next bed along has a survivor redcurrant bush in it and if I buy some more rasps, that bed is where they will go.  Broad beans in there at the moment.  I did think I would get new rasps for the same bed but it occurred to me that if there are any runners I won't know whether they are new or old ones left over.
Did some weeding.  It is always easy at this time of year, you can see each weed and zoom in on it, and I always think I will keep on top of it this year, but I never do, by the time June comes, I'm knee deep.  Maybe I will this year with my beds clearly defined.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

perennial plugs potted

Too windy to go to the plot carrying leggy dwarf french bean seedlings,

                                                                                            and my 64 perennial plug plants for £9.99 from Suttons came in the post today.  So spent the afternoon potting them up.

There was:

This adds up to 74 plants for £14.98 including postage, is that a bargain? It works out at about 20p per plant. The extra Gaillardia was because I split some of the plugs which had multiple plants.  They are looking a bit shocked because they were well rooted around each other and I had to force them apart, time will tell if they survive.
They were nice healthy looking plants except for being a bit pot-bound.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

beetroot and turnip

Sowed a row of beetroot seeds (Detroit 2, Crimson Globe) and a row of turnip (Purple Top Milan).  (Another picture of soil may not be very interesting, but it helps my memory in locating where I put them.)
That patch of dark soil in the next garlic bed is where I planted some Red Baron onion sets ages ago in 21st February. I had a rootle around and found most of them, and several looked the same as when I put them in the ground, some more had a few roots and 2 or 3 had some roots and top growing.  I probably haven't done them any favours by digging them up, but it gave me an idea of how far on they are.  So I will give the other bed, planted at the same time, a bit longer.  Maybe because it has been so dry, they just haven't got going. I puddled them in with some soil improver and some Grow Organic to help them on.

Monday, 15 April 2013

washing day

Washing day today, and a brilliant day for drying outside. The sun is a-shining and the wind is a-blowin'.
So machine minding takes precedence over the plot.
But I did some seed sowing for the trading hut plant scheme in between washloads.
I sowed 7 trays of sweet corn (48) and 7 trays of dwarf french beans (42), and for myself I sowed 6 outdoor cucumbers (Marketmore 76).  They very rarely come to anything but I live in hope.
And I've got a mushroom!  After the failure of the first spawn, I bought a box from Wilko's (you can't say I give up easily) And lo!

I forgot to mention I sowed about 20 tomatillo seeds in the heated propagator (2nd April). I couldn't see through the steamed up lid the next day and thought "oh, it'll be alright..."  Wrong!  So when I lifted the lid the day after, there is a load of cress-like seedlings 3 inches high looking at me! Leggy just doesn't describe it! I discarded the worst ones and I have pricked out the rest.  I don't know if like tomatoes you can plant them up to their armpits, but I have.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Windy today, no fun at the plot so....

Celery experiment potted on.... 3 discarded, they had some root but poor. I didn't take proper notes but I think they were the middles of the stalk and the ones with the best roots were stem bases.
Sunflower and nasturtium seedlings....

Peas in guttering popping up....

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Raspberries out

I dug one of the new raspberry plants that went in 2011 (Polka) and as I suspected, dead as a doornail, roots black and brittle.
I also decided that it was time for the old rasps to go too. They have very little flavour, whether that is due to the variety or the way they have been cultivated, I don't know, but time for them to go. (If they will go, they are remarkably persistent) I've been threatening to do this for two summers now.
I need the space for the new gooseberry plants that are sprouting away nicely in pots at the moment but will need to be split soon and given growing room.
I will have to swot up on what I have to do to the bed before I put them in.

Friday, 12 April 2013

cup of tea

Sat in the sunshine,(dream on! in the not raining and not freezing) on the doorstep of the hut with a cup of tea made with my Christmas ghillie kettle.  It's the first time this year that it has been warm enough.
It tasted special somehow.

sprouting onions

The trading hut was selling off the onions half price because they were starting to sprout.  So I bought 25p'sworth to replace the ones in the plot that are clearly NOT sprouting. I'm not sure if this works, but I'm giving it a go.
They are coming away lovely!
I also sowed some squashes in the windowsill propagator

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Soil improver delivery today

My very own pile of soil improver! (£18 from the Newcastle City Council) Delivered 11.30am prompt, with much trepidation up the narrow lanes of the site, only trashing a few overhanging trees on the way. It would have been good if it could have been dropped a bit closer to my plot, but the lane does get very narrow and I could see that the truck was going to struggle.

Number 1 son helped me get it onto the plot in half the time it would have taken me on my own.  I will take some more pictures tomorrow, no energy left today. I tried to keep track of the number of barrows it was, but No.1 son was such a blur of speed, I lost count.  We think there was 25 or 26 altogether.

Celery experiment update

Judging by the resistance when given a tug, there seems to be roots on all the pieces, and the section that was base of the bunch has grown its second set of leaves. The next step will be to pot them up.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

busy day at the trading hut

My turn to help on the trading hut today, and it was incredibly busy. Broad bean plants, onions and potatoes, weed fabric, compost, manure, blood fish and bone, a pump for a flat wheelbarrow tyre, four kinds of bird seed and some paraffin. It was all happening at Moorside trading hut today! I hardly had time to drink my coffee let alone have a play with my ghillie kettle (luckily I had a flask and wasn't depending on the kettle for coffee).

Relaxing with my feet up this afternoon, I read in an old gardening book that the planting hole for parsnip seeds should be made with an iron bar, 3 feet deep and 3 inches across the top, and made 1 foot apart. So much for mine, 6 ins deep and 6 ins apart. Oh well, it might work. I wouldn't know what to do with a 3 foot parsnip even if I could grow one.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

potatoes planted

I took the rotasieve down to the plot, to get some compost that looks like compost is supposed to look, from the pile of straw and weeds which is my compost heap.
It worked very well.  (Using it reminds me of my mother's old washing machine which was woman powered by a rotating handle on the top.)

A wheel-barrow full of compost later....

Potatoes planted.
18 Kestrel in two rows in bed 6 next the brassica tunnel and 6 in a small raised bed.
Method for bed 6:  ditch along each long side, soil piled in middle, some potato fertilizer sprinkled in the bottom, seed potatoes about 18 inches apart.  Then a shovel  of sieved garden compost for each potato.  The soil from the ditch will be replaced as the potatoes grow (said she confidently).
Method for the raised bed:  as it is only half full of soil I just dug a hole, mixed the bottom soil with fertilizer,and put the seed potato in. Then a shovel of garden compost for each hole.  I will earth them up with the soil improver which is being delivered next week.

I would've put a picture up, but I forgot AGAIN to take the camera or phone, and a picture, now they are planted, would be just a bed of soil, which I am sure you have seen before.

Later... Just to keep everybody happy, a picture of a bed of soil.
 It just shows how dry it has been after months of rain, the picture below is the rain pond!
When I went back this afternoon I had intended to sow some broccoli seeds, but it seems I can only remember one thing at a time, because although I remembered a camera, I forgot the seeds.   Oh well!

Instead, I forked over the spare patch beside the rhubarb which has been covered since last year.  When I peeled back the cover it was looking in good nick, a little bit compacted, but with no weeds (it has been too cold so far anyway) and two frogs blinking in the sunlight. Didn't get a picture of them as they hopped off double quick into the undergrowth.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

beans hardy

I was a bit anxious about the broad beans, because there was quite a frost last night and I had taken their cloches away yesterday.  I expected to see blackened, shrivelled leaves, but no, they looked fine, My Garden Guru was right, they are pretty tough.

Some of the beans I had planted through the weed fabric were looking a bit limp, but when I checked through the holes some of them weren't even in the soil and some more had disappeared completely under the fabric.  I have yet to be convinced that all the faff is worth it.

I re-arranged some of the paths.  I have decided to move the artificial grass strips down to the wet end of the plot around the new raised beds, as I reckon they will stand being flooded better than wood chippings will. So I took the grass strip away from the top path and put it on the bottom path, and cut open two old compost bags and used those as a base for a barrow load of wood chippings, on the top path.

But there was a pretty cold wind blowing, and I started to get properly chilled, even with all the activity, so I came home for a cup of tea. I will do more later.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

sowed parsnips

I took the bold step of taking the cloche tunnels off the broad beans. The weather forecast is good and they are quite tough.
Sowed parsnips (Tender and True). I raked the chosen spot (I thought well about it because after all, they are there for about a year), gave it a little fence otherwise I will do what I did last year, and the year before,  forget about them and then plant something else in the same place.

The technique I am trying this year is to make planting holes about 6 inches apart with an old spade handle, fill them full of compost and plant just 2 or 3 seeds in that.
The task of the day done, I fiddled about doing stuff, as you do in gardens;
  • Attempted to level that wonky bed.
  • Took the brassica tunnel off and weeded and gave the cabbages a seaweed feed. No sprouts, purple or otherwise on the broccolli. The cabbage and cauli has hung on through thick and thin, and are having a little flush of growth.  I might get something yet
  • Also fed the broad beans and the onions while I was on. 
  • Sprinkled ash around the fruit bushes. The Polka rasps and the gooseberry bushes are still looking tote, but I'll give them a bit longer, still early yet.
  • Raked and hoed a bit to break up winter lumps.

I found a volunteer potato, and it was sprouting!  Which is pretty ironic considering I got zero potatoes from that batch last year.   So it maybe that is a sign that it is probably okay to start planting any day now.

Also a daisy looking pretty on what remains of the wild flower bed. I have a soft spot for anything that can make it through all the cold and wet of last year.  It is looking a bit bedraggled but it is getting there.