Monday 31 January 2011

Aiming For Success

This will be my third year growing on the allotment, and yet I haven't yet had any success in growing carrots there. There is such a difference in taste, as with most things, between home grown carrots and shop bought that I won't give up until my home grown carrots are on my plate. I'm not totally convinced that this will be the year of the allotment carrot though, so I've invested in a packet of Paris Market 5 - Atlas seeds, which are stumpy carrots. Before I had the allotment, I used to grow all my veggies in containers, and I grew stumpy carrots, though not this variety. I shall plant these in containers to ensure that I get at least some lovely home grown carrots just in case the ones at the allotment come to nothing again. Stumpy carrots are good for growing in containers as you don't have to provide lots of space for long root growth.

The purple sprouting broccoli at the allotment has been eaten by something, probably pigeons or rabbits desperate for food in the icy weather. It's the first time that I've tried to grow purple sprouting broccoli, and to be honest, I didn't put much effort in to it, it wasn't netted, I really didn't expect much to come of it, so I'm not too disappointed. The cavolo nero has died in the frosts, and the only thing left standing at the allotment now is curly kale. Hubby set to on Saturday and did a bit of digging. Anything done now is less to do later.

This weekend was the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch where you record the number of each species of bird which visits your garden over the period of an hour. I had intented to take part, but in the end I ran out of time. Why is it that my weekends are always so busy? I did see a Red Kite on Saturday though, but I wouldn't have been able to include it in my results as it wasn't in my garden. At one time Red Kites were quite rare but following a reintroduction programme in England and Scotland, they can be seen in many parts of the country.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

All Sorted

A job I usually do over Christmas is to sort out my seeds, work out what I still need to buy, and arrange those I've already got in to months in which they'll be sown. I'm a little late doing it this year, but at last I'm all ready to go. The only seeds I need to buy are parsnip, which should be bought fresh every year, and sweetcorn. All the seed packets are now stored in a cardboard box, which has been divided up in to months. The packets stored under January and February are a little sparse, but come March and April I'm going to be very busy indeed.

I've recently bought a packet of Sweet Pepper - Corno di Toro Rosso, which is a long variety of pepper. Sue from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments doesn't live too far from me, and she's had success growing the elongated varieties and getting them to ripen quicker in our climate, so I thought I'd give them a go too. Last year, my daughter won a grafted pepper plant. These grafted plants are supposed to be quick to ripen, but I didn't find them ripening any quicker than those plants I have grown from seed in the past. Let's hope that these long peppers do their stuff.

I can't remember the last time I visited the allotment. I wanted to go this weekend but found I didn't have time before it was dark. I've got some purple sprouting broccoli which I want to have a look at. I'm sure if the weather hasn't finished it off, the pigeons will as it hasn't been netted.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Another Potato Post

This time it's about potatoes to come, not ones which have already been harvested. At last, I've made the decision about, and actually bought, the potatoes which I'll be growing this year. As my allotment is only a half plot, and there's plenty of other things I also want to grow, there's only going be a 10 foot x 10 foot bed allocated to them, so I've decided that I'm going to grow my earlies in containers to free up more space at the allotment for maincrop. We went to our local nursery to see which varieties they had on offer and found that they only sell the tubers in 3kg quantities. I had hoped to grow a few varieties, however, when I checked the prices at other retailers, the smaller quantities were nearly as expensive as the 3kg bag, which were £3.30. I also get a 10% discount from this particular nursery as I'm a Gardener's World subscriber, so this brings them down to less than £3.00. I decided that it would be more cost effective to grow only one variety of earlies and one of maincrop. The earlies I settled on are Arran Pilot and the maincrop I chose are Maris Piper. I've read good reviews on both of these varieties so I hope they do well for me.

I was thrilled to bits when I visited My Life Diet blog and discovered that I'd won a Stylish Blogger Award. I'd like to thank Nellilou very much, it's always nice to know that people enjoy my blog.

I'm supposed to divulge seven facts about myself, however, I've recently been awarded the same award on my other blog, Through The Keyhole, so I won't repeat myself. You can pop over there to have a read if you like.

I now have to pass this award on to fifteen other blogs, so I'd like to nominate:-

I know not all of you accept awards, but I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blogs. Please don't feel under any pressure to accept the award if you do not wish to do so.

All that's left is to thank you all for continuing to read my blog. It really does make my day when I receive a comment on my posts, so thank you very much.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Not Quite A Washout

As you know, I tried growing some potatoes in containers for Christmas, but even though the containers were placed in a cold greenhouse and wrapped in fleece they still got frosted and the plants died back. I didn't empty the containers before Christmas as even the compost they were growing in was like a block of ice, but hubby got round to emptying them yesterday and this is what he found. It's not a huge harvest but there would have been enough to put on six plates on Christmas day had we managed to empty them then. The best performer was Carlingford, and the other two varieties are Vivaldi and Maris Peer. The seed potatoes were sold later in the year especially for planting for Christmas, however, the yield certainly doesn't justify the cost so this year I'll plant some of the first earlies I harvest to try for a Christmas harvest again.

The everbearing strawberry plants, Flamenco, which I ordered have been delivered so I will spend this afternoon planting them in pots. I'll leave them in the greenhouse until later in the year when I've prepared the bed they will be residing in. It should give them some time to establish some healthy roots before being planted out.

I'm also going to plant my shallots in to plantpots rather than straight out at the plot. The allotment is very boggy at present so they may rot if planted out now, but starting them off in pots will give them a head start.

Monday 10 January 2011

Ladybird Towers

This is the latest in des res accommodation for ladybirds. I have been meaning to make a bug hotel for such a long time and still haven't got round to it, so hubby bought me 'Ladybird Towers' for Christmas. There's lots of little holes drilled in to the wood for the ladybirds to hibernate in, and it comes with a pole to stand it on so I'll be able to site it in my wildlife border. The little ladybird decorations are so cute. Ladybirds are gardener's friends as they help keep the aphid population under control. The ladybirds eat the aphids and also produce larvae which will eat aphids too.

There was a return to snow here last week. We got quite a covering on Friday but it rained during the night turning it to mush for Saturday, so it didn't hang around for long. It was very wet over the weekend though so there was no trip to the allotment. I really need to get down there if only to check on my purple sprouting broccoli, it's the first time I've grown it and I want to check how it's doing.

It won't be long now until we're buying our potato tubers ready to chit before planting. I still haven't made a final decision on which I'll be growing this year so if you have any last minute recommendations I'd be happy to hear them. I'm going to grow my earlies in containers to free up extra space at the allotment for main crops. Varieties I've tried before have suffered from slug damage so I might be better looking for a variety with some resistance.

Wednesday 5 January 2011


I'm always eager straight after Christmas to start sowing some seeds. Last year, my daughter won a pepper plant in a gardening competition and I enjoyed eating the resulting peppers so much that I decided I would grow a few pepper plants this year. Pepper seeds will be the first seeds I will sow as they need a long growing season to allow sufficient time for the fruit to ripen, though they can still be eaten when green. I'm trying to hold out a little longer yet though as the low light levels at this time of year makes the seedlings grow leggy.

So, as it's too early to start sowing seeds, what else can I be doing towards the coming growing season? I've still got all my seeds to sort out. I usually divide the packets up in to the months they're to be sown and store them between dividers in a box. Those seeds which need to be sown successionally are popped back in the box after sowing, either in the same month's compartment for sowing again later that month, or in the next month's compartment.

I've also got to sort out an allotment plan. My four main beds follow a crop rotation, brassicas, roots, potatoes, legumes, but there's also other things such as sweetcorn and squash which need to be slotted in. I use other areas of the allotment for these, but make sure that they're not grown in the same position as they were the year before.

I didn't get round to finishing the winter dig on the allotment before the snow fell so that still needs to be finished, though I don't fancy doing that at the moment. We've had lots of rain overnight and the ground is very boggy, but we'll have to continue with it at the first opportunity.

There's lots of enjoyable reading to be done. The books I wrote about in my last post are still waiting to be started, and there's a new six part series starting on BBC2 on Friday at 8.30pm, Life in a Cottage Garden with Carol Klein. This should give me a weekly television gardening fix whilst Gardener's World is absent from our screens.

I'm sure you'll agree, I've got plenty to be getting on with before I have to start sowing.
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