Monday, April 21, 2008

Rain, rain go away!

Am I the only one wishing the weather would get better! When it's nice it's great but I keep having to run for cover when we get a sudden downpour. Last year at this time we were still in the process of creating the plot from the wasteland that we inherited, we are much further on in the season compared with then but it always feels like I'm chasing my own tail trying to get on with sowing seeds and digging new beds on plot 2. Don't get me wrong, I am loving it (mostly!) and the tantrums I had every time we tried to dig out a 20 foot long weed root are now much, much less (much to D's relief!).

I've had a few MARATHON session up at the plot, last Monday I spent 7 hours digging and sorting things out and it was great. Man's best friend was with me and loved it too (I think), he tends to warn anyone who gets too close to the plot that it is his domain but if they did get too close he'd only lick them to death! He spent most of his time on the parcel shelf of the open boot in the car lapping up the spring sunshine

Tuesday and Wednesday saw me up at the plot after work for a couple of hours each time, I spent an hour or so putting up the 2 rows of bean canes ready for our bumper crops of runner, French and Borlotti beans. I'm not going to grow as many runners this year, we had SO many last year that I couldn't give them away quick enough and there is only so much runner bean chutney you can make (mind you it's bloomin lovely stuff).

On plot 2 I managed to get in the rest of the onion sets in, we now have 2 beds containing a mixture of Stuttgarter (120 sets) Red Karmen (54 sets) and Sturon (64 sets) giving us a grand total of 238 onions in total, a couple of weeks ago Monty Don said on 'Gardener's World' that onions were expected to be in short supply this year pushing the price up so make sure you plant loads, I think I've gone mad but we do use a lot of onion at home.

I've got loads of jobs to get on with, I'm about to build a portable brassica cage from wooden battens and netting which will cover an entire bed, it should make it a lot easier to weed the beds as it will be easy to lift on and off as opposed to the set up we have now where we stake netting into the ground all around the bed. The pricking out and sowing season is threatening to taking over most of our house at the moment, our window sills are completely covered in young plants, I could do with early retirement to cope with this growing your own malarkey!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring has sprung ...

April is living up to it's reputation as being a wet month, one minute we have a beautiful clear blue sky then 5 minutes later it's bloody pouring down!!

I've just had the allotment mower serviced and last weekend we managed to take it to the plot on Sunday afternoon, as we left the house the sky became darker and darker, as I started the mower it proceeded to snow like mad, I carried on mowing looking like a walking snowman, 10 minutes later we had blazing sunshine again ... British weather!

On Monday I went up to the plot in the afternoon and ended up spending approx. 4 hours there. It was so peaceful and apart from one other person arriving for about an hour I had the entire site to myself.I have been trying out chitting parsnip seeds prior to sowing them, this process is very simple and hopefully eliminates the renowned poor germination rate of parsnips. An empty tupperware type container is used with a wet paper towel in the bottom, the seed are sprinkled onto the paper and the lid put on, this is then left in a warm place (airing cupboard, on top of radiator etc.) for the seeds to sprout, it takes about 5 days to a week. Once this has happened you sow the seed into a seed drill using a pair of tweezers to gently transfer them. I station sowed 3 seeds every 6-9", when they show on the surface they can be thinned out to leave the best one.It sounds quite fiddly but it really isn't and hopefully it means that you are guaranteed a perfect row of parsnips. I also put in a row of unchitted parsnip seed so it will be interesting to see if there is much difference between them. (Varieties, Tender and true and white gem)

Chitting Parsnip seed ... 'White Gem'

One of the things I love about allotments is the make do and mend mentality, my shed is a prime example of that, it looks as if it has had another layer added every 10 years for the last 40 years and it leans slightly to one side, it's so ramshackle looking that when D's Mum and Dad were with us his Mum thought it was just a pile of old wood and metal waiting to be used for something, she didn't realise that it was a shed!! For ages I've been wanting to make the inside look a little better and I decided to staple all the old seed packets to the wall to almost wallpaper it, there are some lovely designs on the packets and it also becomes a visual reminder of what you have planted in previous seasons and years.

Seed packet wallpaper (and brewing tea!)

The last couple of jobs were to sow some carrots 1 row each of Early Nantes 2, Fly away and Amsterdam forcing and then dig over one of the beds on the new plot to put onions in.