Tuesday, 22 December 2015

It was a bright shiny day after days of gloom, so I went to the plot to survey the damage.  I'd been there 10 minutes and...

...then there was a rainbow and sunshine then there was torrential downpour, all in the space of half an hour.  That's English weather for you...

Went home.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

It snowed a bit last week, but didn't stay...

...but amazingly warm  at the moment.  For the past week the temperature has been in the teens, hovering between 10C and 14C even during the night.  The shops are complaining they cannot sell their coats and boots.
Not exactly shirt sleeve weather as it is quite wet and windy with it and there is very little sun, but better than the usual freezing temps at this time of year.
 Nothing happening at the allotment, the soil is too wet to walk on and nothing much to harvest except a few gone-to-seed leeks, one or two Brussells sprouts and some red cabbages. The parsnips I sowed in a box are so small as to be not worth peeling, so it will be bought veg for Christmas dinner.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Still pretty cold (5C today and 2.5C overnight) and a bitter wind, but no more frosts.  The nasturtiums have gone all droopy but the the hairy bittercress is loving it.

The weeds are still growing but after half an hour weeding my finger ends had lost all feeling so enough is enough.

I emptied the spent tomato growbag out onto the beds so the potting shed is empty as far as plants go, lots of other clutter though.  I should be taking some of it home for the winter but the garage is full of clutter too.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

First snow

First snow of the season last night, but mostly gone by wake-up time. Temperature down to 0.7C overnight.

Burned a few more branches and hedge clippings yesterday.  I was only able to do so because they were stored in the garage and were nice and dry, everything else is still sodden even though the tide has receded.

Spread three bags of pony manure that I acquired earlier on in the year.  They weren't very big bags but surprisingly they spread over the whole of the asparagus bed.

No more damage to the onions, so far.

Friday, 13 November 2015

The temperature yesterday went to 17C! This is November in NE England, for heaven's sake!

I was cutting the old asparagus fronds down and discovered new shoots coming up!

Crazy climate!

This is one of the unripe sweetcorn cobs that I have put on the bonfire, such a shame they didn't enough sun and warm to ripen them properly, another week would probably have done it.
I suppose it is a chance you take, trying to grow things that don't really belong in your particular climatic zone.

Nearest the camera, two rows of Early Paris White are looking healthy.
The onion sets in the middle are sprouting away nicely.  The danger is that they grow too many juicy leaves and then get clobbered by winter frosts.
No sign of the garlic at the far end yet, but it is early days for that.

Still too wet to do much, the wind blew the netting off the brassicas, but I managed to retrieve it and the pigeons have missed their opportunity.

Monday, 9 November 2015

winter lull

Gone quite cold now, but no frosts and still mildish for the time of year. Averaging about 10-12C most days.
The magic date of 1st November has passed, but without the usual accompanying pyromania, due to incessant wetness in the air.
It would seem I was wise to re-site the pond liner as the first hole I dug is now full to the brim of rainwater, and the frogs are loving it.
I have harvested a red cabbage and two batches of brussells sprouts, all the red shallots are lifted and are at home, drying in the greenhouse.
I have taken home the biggest of the apples and left the small ones for the birds.
The second sowing of sweetcorn haven't ripened, which is a shame because otherwise they were perfect.

 The runner beans are down, also the sweet peas.  I will leave the stems on the soil, to rot down rather than burning them.

This is the biggest celeriac! I think I might not bother with them next year. I have never yet managed to grow any celeriac bigger than a tennis ball.  (Sorry about the fuzzy photo, I have an accumulation of fluff in the Nokia's camera lens)

I have some pre-loved decking planks with which to make a new bed where the pond is, but everything is too soggy to do anything so it will have to wait for dryer weather.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

planting onions and garlic

The winter onions and the garlic are planted...

The layout is onion seedlings in the foreground, onion sets in the middle and 20 cloves of garlic beyond the plank at the far end.

I saved the three biggest garlic bulbs from the last crop, and picked the biggest cloves from them...

They were nice fat ones this year.  I could have sown more but we don't need very much garlic.

I took down the sunflowers, it was like felling trees!  I cut the heads off and left them for the birds to peck and the stems went in the bonfire pile under cover. I noticed that the sickly looking ones I was concerned about earlier, had much poorer root development than the ones at the other end. This must be why they started to die back much sooner than the others, but I don't know why that happened. I will have to monitor that area a bit more closely.

I checked the sweetcorn and there are about ten lovely fat cobs, but so far, any that I have opened look fully pollinated, but pale, pale yellow with small kernels.  They just haven't ripened, and I think it is probably too cold now. I will leave them as long as I can bear it.

Some apples were ripe on my tree and some proper sized ones this year instead of the tinsy ones I usually get. I took half a bucket full home and lots more to come if I want them.

Observant readers might have noticed that I didn't stop writing my diary after all....

plotplan 18.10.15

Friday, 16 October 2015

pondering on a pond

I dug a hole, but on reading (belatedly) the instructions that came with the liner, I discovered that the place I have chosen for the pond is completely unsuitable. It is too wet, oddly enough, and would flood underneath the liner.  I had thought of this a while back, but managed to ignore my misgivings because I didn't want to know.
So the liner is still in its packet while I re-think.

I'm still getting some produce although it is petering out now, these are probably the last tomatoes and courgettes for this year.  I've been leaving the runner beans to get big and it always surprises me how very pink they are out of their pods. These have gone into the freezer for cooking later.  I could dry them for soup, but I found that last year they were a bit too big for soup and stayed tough even through lots of cooking.  I was hoping to have some smaller french beans to dehydrate, but, alas, it is not to be this year.

A year end treat, Ribston Pippins, from the favourite tree of my friend and mentor MGG who is now sadly no longer with us.  He is missed.

I needn't have worried, the red cabbages are developing nice solid hearts after all, and I have Brussells sprouts!

I transplanted the winter onions that have grown from seed (Paris early white) to their permanent home.

 There are only about 20 plants so I bought some sets in the market (Senshu) to fill the rest of the bed. I didn't have time to put them out today so they will keep till I do have time.

I sprinkled the bed with Blood, fish and bone and some rock dust.  I didn't apply very much fertilizer as I have read that the plants shouldn't make too much fleshy growth which might suffer in a frost.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

pond 2

I dug a bit of a hole...

Its only about 6 inches deep so far.  I have made a sort of shelf along the side of the raised bed, which will act as a path.
I will figure out how to manage the liner fabric as I go along.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The place where the pond was to be is looking a bit forlorn, so I have ordered some pond liner fabric to make a pond more in scale with the chosen site. I will still need to do some digging, but hopefully not as much as with the fibre-glass liner.

I only planted out half of the 108 perennial bargain plug plants, the rest have gone into modules, which I am hoping to overwinter in the plant scheme greenhouse.  If they survive, then they can go on sale for the Allotments Association.

Today's pickings...the last of the first batch of corn, some funsized, some proper sized.

The second sowing is almost ripe, but I don't know if they will ripen now it is colder. Saying that, the courgettes are still popping up.

As expected the crown prince didn't succeed to the throne, this is the only survivor.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


Weather getting cooler, a max of 15C today.

Transplanted the rest of the brassicas:- 5 each of

  •  Aalsmeer, cauliflower
  • Broccoli, claret 
  • Spring hero, cabbage
  • Frostie, cabbage

108 perennial plug plants transplanted:-
            18 each of Digitalis, Lobelia, Perovskia, Nepeta, Agastache, Gaillardia.

Friday, 2 October 2015

I changed my mind about the pond, it is just too much work.  I decided that
a) I didn't want a pond that badly
b) I have better things to do with my energy than chuck really wet, heavy, compacted soil about
c) the pond liner was too big for the space I had planned
d) it was going to take ages to get it into the ground and get it level.
d) major re-organisation would be required to find a better fit in another part of the plot.

Luckily a nearby plot-holder was keen to replace his leaky pond and took it off my hands with a happy smile.  Best of luck to him.

Still picking...blackberries, little sour apples, runner beans, dwarf french beans tomatoes and sweet peas...

Also sweetcorn (not pictured)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Wouldn't you just know it!  One apple on the Jonagold and I missed it...

Asparagus ferns in their second summer...

I planted out the spring cabbage and put a green mesh tunnel over.

I will plant out the others when they are big enough.

I am starting to clear the ground for the new pond and disturbed another big caterpillar.

I await an id from our caterpillar expert.....?

This is the proposed site of the new pond..

to fit this..

Its only 18 inches deep which doesn't sound much, but....

Monday, 28 September 2015

I made some bread and butter pickle (so called because it goes well with bread and butter).  Cucumbers, onions (or in this case shallots) and a red sweet pepper for appearances.  I hope it is going to keep okay in these coffee jars, I haven't got any proper kilner jars and the cost of buying them is an investment I am not prepared to make at this time.

The pears (loffelbirne) have been picked, some had some beak damage, so I thought I had better get them in before the birds do.  And according to the growers website, they should be picked unripe and stored till Decemberish.

The sweetcorn is starting to ripen at last, I was beginning to give up on it as the nights are getting quite cool now and the first frost feels just around the corner. The cobs picked so far are a good size and well pollinated and there are plenty of them.  Something has been eating the tips of some of the cobs, but so far only the ones on the tillers (side shoots)

The banana shallots (simiane) are falling about untidily all over the place, and I was tempted to pull them out. But as the tops are still growing strongly, I have taken out only the feeblest ones and left these for the moment.

The buckwheat green manure is coming up nicely, although my broadcasting technique definitely needs work! I don't know why it is called buckwheat, it is nothing like any wheat I have seen.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

the adventures of a lost little soldier

This afternoon, I was digging in the back garden, struggling to take out an old quince bush, when, in the tangle of roots I came across a lost little soldier.  The poor little man must have been waiting to be rescued for about twenty-five years at least, maybe more.

If he could talk I wonder what he would tell us....

(squeaky voice)
up to my knees in muck and bullets...

tramping through the rainforest...

hacking through tropical undergrowth...where's that machete...

Bit of a lull now after the show and the growing season is winding down, Not a lot to do on the plot except to keep it tidy and pick things.

Picking now...runner beans, blackberries, sweet peas, courgettes, cucumbers.
Picking soon....apples, sweet corn, celeriac, red shallots, purple dwarf french beans.
Still growing....winter onions from seed, fennel, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, leeks, cabbage, red cabbage, brussels sprouts.

I put the cloche over the cucumbers and some of the courgettes to keep them going a bit longer

I found a very large caterpillar marching determinedly along the edge of a raised bed edge

Don't know what it is, but from the size of it it has done its eating already and hopefully past any danger to my plants, so I left it alone.  I couldn't face the squish even if I had killed it anyway.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Show day 2015

Sadly, grey and wet, very wet, but not so wet that the show was called off, which would have been a disappointment to all of the 20 people that turned up.

By the time the gates opened at 12.30 the rain had stopped, but by that time the path in front of the show tent had turned liquid.  I nipped up to my plot, rolled up my new astroturf paths and laid them down over the muddiest parts in front of the entrance and that helped minimise the clarts a bit.

I was manning the plant stall where the few veg plants went like hot cakes, but the flower plants attracted less interest.  There were some nice plants too, three different varieties of foxglove, three  or four of lupin, all nice sturdy plants. But even with the bad weather, the stall made £57.50, half of which goes into the plant scheme coffers for seeds for next year.

I did surprisingly well in the show;
firsts for

  • three garlic bulbs
  • pickled sliced beetroot, 
  • photograph taken on our allotment site, as below:

thirds for

  • three onions
  • three carrots
  • one sweet pepper
  • six sweet pea stems
  • jar of jelly
  • jar of chutney
I am particularly pleased with the awards for the onions, jelly and chutney. The other thirds were not so well earned because they were mostly third out of a field of three.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

On carrots

The morning was spent over the sink, washing carrots.

They are all pretty small, but there is a possibility that I might have three decent-sized ones that will do for the show. I'm not sure yet as I have only rough-sorted them,  I'll do the fine-sort before Friday.

Above are the biggest whole undamaged carrots

 These are the small and part carrots which I will use for snacking or cooking.

This an example of the typical damage.  Something has tunnelled into the side, usually near the bottom, then once maggot has reached the core it tunnels up through the carrot damaging the whole root.
I'm guessing it is carrot fly which is responsible.  They were growing in a box raised up off the ground so that the soil surface was at least two feet high, so in theory it should have been safe from carrot fly. Seemingly the fly hasn't read the book.  I did have a fleece cover on the box, but it shredded in the last wind and I thought, mistakenly, I might get away with it this year.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Preparing for the show

Thinking about the show which is due to happen on Saturday, always providing there isn't a sudden torrential downpour to wash us all out.
  • I've got 3 matched onions, but no raffia, so I tried one with a strand of hessian string and it could look quite good if I can keep it neat enough. Somebody told me that you do something with onions and talcum powder, but they didn't tell me exactly what...
  • I've got 3 beetroots roughly the same size so If I can get them clean without damaging them they might do.
  • I have a box of carrots in the back garden which are of unknown quality so far, I will investigate tomorrow.
  • I've sweet peas and runner beans galore, which I can pick on Friday.
  • I can put in a jar of the currant jelly I made last month.
Things that won't star...
  • the shallots are too big, if I put six of those out they would fill the table, besides, they aren't ready and I don't want to pull them yet. (Like lots of other things in the plot)
  • the broad beans are too small
  • the courgettes are all different sizes (one enormous one - see pic below)
..and they have been nibbled by slugs underneath.
  • The crown prince squashes have grown two fruits at last, but too late...too late...they are only the size of grapefruit.
  • the sweetcorn aren't ripe yet, I picked an exploratory one today and although it was fully pollinated from top to bottom, the kernels are small and still pale yellow. I gnawed on it and it was quite tasty, even so.
  • there is only one presentable gladioli left, they were brilliant last week.
  • apples and pears, I have, but they are not ripe.
  • the blackberries are ripening slowly, but there probably won't be enough to fill a plate full.
  • the red cabbages are all leaf and no heart.
  • And the leeks...I only replanted them a few days ago.