Saturday, May 27, 2006

And the waters receded.........

A week to forget about.

Despite all attempts (including blowing up my microwave and filling the flat with acrid black smoke) I did not quite manage to cough myself inside out however, and am now pretty much recovered. (Why does Benylin have to taste so revolting?) So taking advantage of the unseasonably dry spell between 9am and Noon today I went to the plot to see what has been going on in my absence.

I arrived just as Peter, who promised to do some watering for me, was just finishing doing exactly that. We had a brief comedy conversation along the lines of “ Ah, Thank you my man.” and “ I knows my place zurr”…before I actually looked at the ground and pretty much lost the mood for humour.

Fecking weeds !!!

A considerable amount of hoeing and hand weeding has restored some order to the top half of the plot, but the soil is far too wet for me to get onto the bottom half to finish the job. Weeds offend me, but I will just have to tolerate them until things dry out a bit.

I consulted Pete’s copy of Dr Hessayon, the vegetable bible, and decided it was the right time to pinch the tops out of my broad beans as they have just set pods, and were really starting to get covered in blackfly.

After this I planted 60 pots of sunflowers. The ones I sowed in the soil in April have all failed to germinate, due to the cold and the damp. To be honest I can’t personally be bothered about them now, but having had several conversations with bemused plot holders about my theoretical sunflower hedge, I feel obliged to try and make it happen, so have sown another lot, albeit rather late, in the cold frame.

The runner beans have taken a pasting from the wind and the cold, but look like they will all hang on if only the weather warms up a bit now.

Apart from this things are fairly shipshape on Plot 14, and will have to blunder on for another week before I get chance to put in much time down there again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Going the extra mile......

A bit of a dilemma this morning as to whether to go down to the plot, or not.

On the one hand I've come down with a cold and hacking 24/7 cough, and should really have stayed indoors out of the ridiculous wind. On the other hand, if it follows the same course of events as the last time I had a similar lurgy, I'll end up in bed for a week on antibiotics anyway, and stuff that needs planting out won't wait that long. So I went down for a couple of hours, barking all the way. I must admit I did think about Al still soldiering on at her plot with shingles of all things, and this helped put my malady into perpective. (Mind you, in my defence, I have got a "Man Cold" which as we all know is far more serious than the female variety.)

Was aghast to see the amount of weed seedlings that have sprung up in the last few days, and spent a good while hoeing the whole plot. I couldn't be bothered to scrabble about and pick them all up though, so when it rains again I expect 5o% of them will re-root. Still, it looks better now.

Dennis next door to me had dropped off the sweetcorn plants he aquired from his brother, and promised me in return for some seed potatoes I got for him from someone else. (...are you following?) So I planted them out, and then decided I could do with a few more, so planted some seed myself in the cold frame. I've failed miserably to germinate any sweetcorn before, hence my reliance on imported stock, but you never know, maybe third time lucky.

After this I planted out the runner beans, into the teeth of a gale, and tied them losely to the canes with some bass in hopes that they will withstand the blow. Not ideal weather, but they have grown on so quickly and really needed to come out of the cold frame before they got too intertwined with each other. I expect they'll be OK.

Next I planted out 2 courgettes, and 2 F1 hybrid pumpkins. These are a smaller more practical variety than the Atlantic Giant I put out last week, and about which I am now having some serious misgivings. The seed packet made no mention about any special spacings, but from Howard Dill's own website I notice they say plants should be at least 16-20 feet apart! His pictures show massive, all conquering, leaf runs that would swamp half my entire plot. Am hoping I will be able to chop them back to a manageable size with too seriously harming their fruiting abilities.

Final jobs were to scatter some slug bait, pull a few sticks of rhubarb, and gather some more radishes from the salad bar.

Peter on the plot to my other side was there, and expressed some concern about my hacking and barking noises, reprimanding me for being out in the cold. If I don't feel like going back down for a few days he's kindly promised to water anything that's still under glass for me, so that's something at least.

Now for the sofa, duvet, and hot toddies.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Getting there....

Just a bit of a general update on the sudden growth spurt at Plot 14.

This week of warm weather has finally kick started things outside, and some of the coldframe raised plants are now ready to go out as well. The overall picture is looking a lot busier and more interesting than it was when I first posted here in February.

The first row of early spuds is doing well. These are the Vale's Emeralds and were planted quite early, about 3 weeks ahead of the others. I've already earthed them up once, so am now hoping there will be no more late frosts. And the salad bar is coming along nicely as well...

My Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkins are now planted out on their raised humps, sitting on a bed of rotted compost, and with a tube angled underneath them. This is more for delivery of liquid fertiliser to the roots than for watering. It's a bit of an experiment but we'll see how it goes. They'll have to stay under a cloche for a couple of weeks though.

The broad beans look about halfway there height wise, and are
just starting to suffer the attentions of a few pioneering blackfly.

Raspberry Wars

Not a great deal of progress on this front!
I think my Galante troops must be suffering from a lack of moral fibre. Either that or my expectations of
strong growth and fruits this season were all out of proportion. Maybe they'll just mainly make roots this first year.
I took a leaf from Matt's book and top dressed them liberally with Blood, Fish & Bone yesterday, and then
worked it into the surface with a rake. I only hope Matt's aren't all about three feet high and roaring away!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Humble Radish............

The first to sow, the first to grow. The easiest crop of all to look after....The humble radish barely rates a mention as a serious vegetable.... Even little kids can grow them.

And yet few types of veg are so instantly rewarding, especially at this time of the year when all the other crops seem to be taking an age to really get going.

These are a variety called Cherry Belle. Being red all over, they look great, and have a fairly mild peppery flavour that is perfect with a good cheese sandwich and a beer.

These are the first pulling, leaving their smaller neighbours to grow on for another week or so. I have another row just sprouting in the raised bed to follow on.

The "first radish" must surely be one of the red letter days of the allotment year...the whole season is before us.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ticking over........

Quite a few small jobs got done on my plot this week, but nothing really remarkable, or worth photographing.

My efforts can be listed thus:

1. Planted out some young peas round the wigwams.
2. Sowed runner bean seeds and climbing french beans in pots in the coldframe
3. Hoed off emerging bindweed shoots everwhere.
4. Hoed off more bindweed shoots 2 days later
5. Sowed some cabbage seed in the seedbed
6. Mowed and edged
7. Earthed up the first early potatoes that have just come through
8. Planted out some lettuce plants in one of the raised beds
9. More bloody hoeing
10. Ingratiated myself with various folk hereabouts by dishing out bundles of rhubarb

The plot still looks like it hasn't got much in it at the moment, but that will change in the next few weeks as my pumpkins,corguettes and beans go out, and the sweetcorn plants I have blagged a neighbour into getting for me arrive.

It feels a bit strange to be on top of everthing, but I remind myself that I only grow on a modest scale, so don't have hundreds of young plants to prick out, or acres of fruit to weed and train like some other plotholders.

Hopefully this week one of local papers may yield a second hand freezer to put in my garage, so that I can keep a bit more of my own produce this year instead of having to give two thirds of it away again.