Sunday, 22 March 2009

Springy things

I meant to say yesterday about all the buzzy and flying things that have appeared for the first time this year. There were quite a few butterflies including 3 small tortoiseshells all flying together and lots of buzzy bees and some ladybirds becoming active. Lots of birdie action too with long tailed tits checking out our hedge and gold finches in the boundary trees. And just as I was about to leave the plot there was a loud squawk and I looked up to see two herons flying over : ) No pics though I'm afraid. Til next time then.........ooh except to say I've seen at least two other blogs with 'busy, busy busy' as the title....must try and be more original with my titles!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A sunny sunny day

It's the southern (hemisphere) planting period at the moment, which means no sowing, transplanting or pruning if you follow the biodynamic guide. and live in the northern hemisphere. Plenty of other stuff to get on with though including....

I took this sort of 'cloche' down to the plot today. I'd made it a few years ago from willow and some clear plastic, plus some string and some of those metal foldly pins (can you tell I've forgotten what they're called!). I don't think I've ever actually used it before but it might help a bit. I've put it over some radish and beetroot seedlings, which I'm growing as a catch crop before putting up some wigwams for cucumbers or something similar later in the year.

The beetroot seedlings (Detroit, sowed on14 Feb) They've only just come up and I had been worried I'd sowed them a bit early but maybe that biodynamic stuff is working eh!

Same goes for these radishes (Scarlet Globe)

The cloche is held down by some of these pegs, which we made when coppicing the buddleia. I think they'll come in very handy.

This is the asparagus bed. We got some lovely crowns last year from the Organic Gardening Catalogue but didn't have any manure etc to prepare the bed so we just put them in without it (though we did clear all the couch grass and brambles of course!). Unsurprisingly the crowns didn't do very well, which I think wasn't helped by a long dry spell during which I neglected them a bit too (whoops). After that period I watered them well and mulched the bed with straw. So last week I couldn't wait any longer to see if they'd survived and carefully dug down to one...and phew! It was ok. So to give them a helping hand, as previously mentioned, I've put some manure on top of the bed. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Horse poo!

I spent a few hours on Sunday shovelling horse poo, and much fun it was too! A fellow allotmenter knows some people with a stable and we were assured there was a massive bay of horse poo of varying ages to help ourselves to. On arrival with a friend and his old landrover it came as a little surprise that the bay was empty!! Apparently a farmer had come and cleared the lot earlier in the week. Bah!!

But all was not lost as some big plastic barrels had been filled with manure ages ago (for reasons unknown!) and inside was lovely well-rotted manure..huzzah!
Mmmm manure.....

I put some on the raised bed (rear one in pic above) where the second lot of early potatoes are going to go. You can see the difference in colour!

Does anyone know whether I've put too much manure on?? Or is it a case of 'never too much' for potatoes?

This is the first time we've actually had anything to improve the soil in any great bulk, so I'm very grateful to have it. I dug some in to the soil before planting out some autumn raspberry canes (given to us by a friend who was tidying up their allot) the other day and after work today I put some on top of the rather poor asparagus bed (hoping the worms will do the work and incorporate it into the soil for me plus to avoid damaging the asparagus crowns). More pics soon!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Busy busy busy

Have had a good couple of days on the plot. It's been 'roots' in the biodynamic calendar so have put in one lot of early potatoes (Colleen), where the old strawberry patch was, plus the previously mentioned onions, a couple of rows of carrots (Cubic), some peas and a row of parsnips (Imperial Crown) with radishes (Rudolph) - the radishes germinate quickly and show you where the parsnips are, which take ages to germinate. We only grew one short row of parsnips last year cause we didn't have much ground cleared. They were really tasty though, so are growing loads more this year. We're growing them in between rows of broad beans with the hope that some of the nitrogen fixed in the soil from the beans will make them grow bigger.

Here's some piccies!

The peas, with some pea sticks

Onions (jetset). I think I put them a bit close together but hopefully as they're staggered they'll be ok. Just need to be able to get inbetween for weeding.

Early potatoes (Colleen). Have got another variety (Maris Bard) for putting in the bed behind but they weren't as well chitted so have left them until next months 'roots' period.

The black currant leaves breaking. Nice. We've got 3 bushes (which were already on the plot when we got it) and have started managing them on a three year rotation (i.e. cut one down to the ground each year) as this ensures you get nice new growth regularly which produces the best berries.

Early stage of pond making. Had a biggish white container and have lined it with thick black plastic (just for looks). Then put lots of stones in the bottom and a brick to for a platform in case anything falls in that doesn't really want to be there (like a hedgehog, not that we've got any, but it would be GREAT if we did!)

View of pond area

Also put in an old washing up bowl next to the bigger tub and have put more stones around the edge. I knew I find a use for all those bloomin stones! You can also see the habitat pile made from some of the buddliea coppicing.

Close-up of the pond. We've got a pond in the back garden so I whipped out a few plants and some water from it for the new ponds, to get them going.

And lastly, just for interest, here's a new apple tree (Katy) we've put in. Note sneaky use of an old inner tube for the tree ties. There was a big flowering currant here before, which I eventually managed to grub out (with the help of an Azada - a really useful mattock-like tool purchased from Get-Digging, a Norfolk based mail order company) . It was a shame to see the currant go but it was massive and taking up too much space, plus you couldn't eat the berries!

I should say at this point that this and the last few posts have been from me (Lou) rather than Ms Idler....she's busy busy busy doing other stuff but I haven't got my own log in yet. So there you go!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The plot thickens

Thought I'd put on some pics of what the allot looks like now....oooh and also planted out the onion sets today but didn't have a camera with me. We're growing Jetset which we got from the Organic Gardening Catalogue. Grew them last year and they seemed to do well.

Will just bung the photos on tonight but then add more info another time.

Here it is...

This view shows about 3 quarters of the length of the plot, facing south east-ish. There's a really overgrown bit behind me! Under the nets is white sprouting broccoli, which the old-boy whose garden backs on to our allotment gave us. We didn't know what it was going to be, he just said it was 'broccoli' so up til recently (when they started producing white floretty things) it was a bit of a mystery. And we didn't even know you could get white sprouting broccoli! It's very tasty.

Next to them are a few little leeks, which again are v tasty, but they didn't get very big. This was probably because we didn't add any compost or manure before planting them out (because we didn't have any)....just cleared all the brambles then put them in. They were ok for a first attempt though!

Blackcurrant starting to come into leaf...better photo to follow (this was taken on a camera phone)

We've got four raised beds, which I made from salvaged timber (oh plus a new one I recently made for strawberries). Unfortunately the planks had been treated with preservative but as the wood is so old, it's only the very centre of the planks that still has any left, so thought it was safe enough to use. Some of the planks had flaky paint on too but I made sure those sides faced outwards and didn't touch the beds themselves.

There are autumn onions (Radar) in the front half of the two nearest beds, and behind them, a few strawberries leftover that I couldn't find a home for (transplanted some and gave away quite a few). Actually these were all free because we uncovered some whilst clearing the plot and planted them up and..hey presto, runners a plenty and lots of little strawberry plants!

In the left rear bed is the winter tares (aka vetch) green maure and in the right rear bed are some leftover chards which will hopefully come back to life now spring is warming up.

Have cleared all the brambles from here this winter, ready to make way for a pond (well small tub sunk in the ground, anyway)

Part of the northern end of the plot...Lots more work to be done!

Summer raspberry canes, with compost bins in the background. The raspberries were also discovered whilst clearing the plot, but surprise surprise they were all over grown with brambles and we didn't realise they were there to start with (so most of the crop was wasted the first year cause the canes had flopped to the ground and the fruit got slugged and mushy). So I cleared them all out, and put them in rows and made supports with more scrap wood.

The compost bins are the ol' allotment staple...made from pallets! We made three, so there's one 'active' bin (i.e. one we chuck everything in) and the other two are at different stages of composting. To make the most of the space, I grow a pumpkin plant in each of the older bins. Seems to work well. Plus as we've been clearing lots of couch grass, the pumpkin plants help to keep the couch roots shaded and stop them re-growing. I've read that a lot of people burn their couch grass roots to make sure they're dead but we had far too many for that, so made kind of turf stacks from them instead. Some of the outer roots grew a bit, but on the whole they've died off, and the top soil from them has been pretty good.

There are two big buddlieas in the south eastern corner of the plot, which are a great habitat but take up a lot of space. So we decided to coppice the front one, and sorted all the branches into useful bits (long ones for wigwams etc). Any that were too thick, or bendy have been stacked in a habitat pile, for creepy crawlies.

Slightly different view, putting things into perspective.

The other bit of the northern end of the plot....including the new strawberry bed. That's the last of the salvaged wood, so no more raised beds for now. Hopefully we'll get a shed at some point to put up here. Oh, that white tub in the left is what will become the pond.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Things're growing!

Yippee, the sprouting broccoli is finally sprouting and the tomato seedlings have germinated! Plus the Brussels sprouts and some lettuces have germinated too. Leeks are a no show so far. Maybe I should stop checking them every five minutes.