Friday 27 May 2011

It's Nearly Time

Look what I found at the allotment on Sunday. It's nearly strawberry picking time. If truth be told, I've already picked a few strawberries from plants in the garden which were overwintered in the greenhouse, but it won't be long until I'm picking from the allotment too. I hadn't even netted the allotment ones, the netting we used last year was no good, I'd left it in place too long and when I came to remove it, it had got tangled up in all the new growth and ripped as I pulled it off. When I realised that some strawberries are beginning to ripen I hotfooted it to my local nursery and bought some new netting, I don't trust those pesky birds to leave my delicious fruit alone.

The sweetcorn which I sowed in plantpots nearly two weeks ago are growing well. I sowed thirty seeds and twenty six have germinated, this will give me a block of five by five plus one spare, that's plenty for us as there's only me who eats it. The beans which I sowed have been slower in germinating and are only just beginning to do so now, though they've been residing in the greenhouse whereas the sweetcorn are on a windowsill in the house. It just shows the difference that a little heat makes.

The schools break up for half term today and hubby has also taken next week off from work. I'm hoping to spend some time at the allotment as my to do list is getting longer and longer. I haven't even got my maincrop potatoes in yet, and there's all the brassicas to plant out too. Fingers crossed for some fine weather.

Sunday 22 May 2011

A First On The Allotment

This is the third year I've had my allotment yet it's the first time I've got any carrots to germinate. I don't know why this is, perhaps it's because the ground has been worked for a couple of years now. I dug out a small trench which I filled with multi purpose compost and the seeds were sown in to this. I've ensured that the seeds have been kept watered on those days when there hasn't been any rain. I've tried to sow thinly to avoid having to thin out, but plenty have germinated. I'm taking a chance and not covering them with fleece, only time will tell if I'm being foolhardy. I've just got to get them to grow now.

It isn't only the carrots which have germinated, even the parsnips have done so, and in record time too. Sometimes they can take weeks to start showing. I sowed them exactly the same way as I did the carrots, though it was easier to sow thinly as they're bigger seeds. I definitely shouldn't have to thin them much. I mentioned in an early post that I'd also chitted some parsnip seed and sown them in to plantpots to plant out later. Well they're just starting to put some leaves above the soil now so they'll be planted out very soon. It's important not to delay this job otherwise the tap root will hit the bottom of the plantpot which will cause the parsnip to fork. It will be interesting to see whether the direct sown parsnips or the ones from chitted seed do best.

I wanted to get my tomatoes potted on today but it's so windy that I couldn't chance doing any such jobs outside. I daren't even carry the plants from the greenhouse to the kitchen in case a gust of wind snapped them in two on the way. I'll leave that job for later on in the week.

Monday 16 May 2011

It's Raining It's Pouring

Well, it isn't now, but it was yesterday. The rain was in for the day so I didn't make it down to the allotment, but I did get my beans and sweetcorn sown. I've started them all off in plantpots to be planted out later. Sown yesterday were climbing bean - Blue Lake, dwarf beans - Safari and Sonesta and sweetcorn - Applause. I also sowed some radish - French Breakfast and lettuce - Salad Bowl. The runner beans will be sown some time this week. Incidentally, the photo is of my Aquilegia which I planted in my border. This year I have a self sown variety which has popped up in the front garden which is pink in colour. I don't like it as much as this rich purple one.

I mentioned previously that I've sown some parsnip seeds direct at the allotment. I'm not totally sure they'll germinate, so to hedge my bets I have chitted some seed and planted them in to plantpots to be planted out later. This involves laying the seeds on damp kitchen paper and waiting for them to sprout. It's important not to let the paper dry out, this can be achieved by placing clingfilm over the tray you're using, or do as I do and use a plastic container which has a lid. Once the seeds have sprouted I plant them in to plantpots and once they have a couple of leaves I plant them out. It's important not to keep them in the plantpot too long otherwise the tap root will hit the bottom of the plantpot which will cause the parsnip to fork.

I'm looking forward to my lunch today. I'm going to have a cheese sandwich with some salad leaves included. This will be the first of my harvests this year, the salad leaves that is, not the cheese.

Monday 9 May 2011

Waste Not Want Not

I planted out four rows of onion sets the other week and still had loads left over. Rather than them going to waste I have planted them up in pots and shall pull them small to use as spring onions. They could also be pickled. I noticed they were selling bags of onion sets at half price in Wilkinsons at the weekend, a bargain if you haven't already bought some. I planted my onions and shallots at the end of May last year and they produced a decent crop, though it's always better to get them in earlier to give them a longer growing period.

I got my peas - Hurst Green Shaft planted out yesterday along with some mange tout - Kent Blue and climbing peas - Stephens and Robinson, which can be used as mange tout. These had all been started off in modules. It was a little breezy yesterday but I had to go ahead and sow my carrots - Tendersnax, parsnip - Tender and True and beetroot - Boltardy before it got any later. It will be a first for me if the carrots germinate.

We had rain overnight on Saturday, the first we've had for a long time, which made the ground a little easier to work with yesterday. It's sunny again today so if we don't get any more rain I'll have to pop up to the allotment each evening to make sure the seeds I've sown don't dry out.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Black Is Black

I'd like to thank everyone for all the good wishes you have sent for my dad, it's very touching and means a lot. He's doing well at home and everything seems to be going according to plan with his recovery. After collecting him and taking him home from hospital on Sunday, we nipped off to RHS Harlow Carr where they were having a plant sale. I can never resist buying, even though I don't really need any plants at the moment, so I came home with dianthus - Early Bird Stardust and, the plant in the photo, viola - Roscastle Black. I don't think any flowers billed as black are truly black, this is more of a very deep purple, but stunning all the same. I've just got to find somewhere to put them now. You can read more about my trip to RHS Harlow Carr on my other blog, Through The Keyhole.

I had hoped to sow some carrot and parsnip seeds at the allotment on Sunday evening, and then again on Monday, but it's been so windy that I thought the seeds being so small might blow away. I do need to get them sown though otherwise I will be without parsnips again this winter. Hubby did manage to get some wigwams up though which he's pleased about, he doesn't think it looks like an allotment without some structures about the place.

We all still need to be on our guard as some parts of the country suffered a frost last night. We managed to avoid it here but I shall be moving my hanging baskets and other less hardy plants back in to the greenhouse if there's the slightest chance that a frost might hit. I hope nobody had any damage done to their plants by last night's frost.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Growth Spurt

I have grown my tomatoes differently this year to previous years. Usually, I start the seed off in a heated propagator and then prick the seedlings out and keep them on a windowsill indoors. As the weather has been unusually hot this year, I moved the seedlings in to my mini greenhouse, which is inside my normal greenhouse, as soon as they were pricked out. I've noticed that their growth has been much slower than in previous years, but the plants are much sturdier. They were potted on last week in to larger pots and since then I have noticed that they've had a growth spurt. I expect this is because the new compost will have fresh nutrients for the plants to take up.

My first early potatoes have now been earthed up in their containers, they're about half full now. I'm having to make sure that they're well watered as containers dry out much quicker than the ground does. My main crop potatoes are still waiting to be planted in the allotment.

I had hoped to spend quite a bit of time at the allotment over this long weekend but my dad had a heart attack on Wednesday evening so we've been busy hospital visiting since then. He gave us quite a shock but I'm pleased to say that he's come home today so I might get to spend some time there tomorrow. Needless to say, I haven't managed to visit many blogs since then, but I'm hoping to catch up with all your new posts in the next couple of days.

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