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Allotment Diary

New Allotment Project (Unknown)?

There’s a patch at the allotment that needs some overdue TLC and this is the year where I’m going to make a start with this particular patch.

The space is at the end of the plot and it resides underneath some very old oak trees, which means, that not much tends to grow there, because of the fallen acorns, leaves and the level of light in this space.

Mainly, this space has been used to house nailed together cold frame, which succumb to the elements not so long ago.

If I’m totally honest, I currently don’t know what to do with this space. All I know is that it needs to be easy to maintain and useful. If you have any ideas, please do let me know in the comments below.

The first job on the agenda is clearance, whilst figuring out what to keep and what not to keep.

Pruning Red Gooseberry bushes

At the front of the plot are two well established red gooseberry bushes, which I’m reluctant to remove or move, for fear of doing more harm than good to the plants themselves.

The plants haven’t seem much pruning in recent years, and so as a result have become quite leggy. I’ve left around of the third of the plant left, and I’ve made sure that I’ve made cuts where there’s buds and new growth ready to sprout.

Moving the wood store

Keeping the gooseberry bushes in tact were two wired up logs, which have been there for quite a while.

Removing these wasn’t too much of a struggle as they have rotted at the base and just needed a quick push over. I’ve moved all of the wood in this space to a new area on the plot, behind the shed.

The wood store consists mostly of these logs and off cuts of decking used to create the raised beds.

I’m thinking that these could be quite good for a bug hotel perhaps?

Pulling back membrane

Covering the ground is a plastic membrane which has done a good job of keeping weeds at bay, but over the years, weeds have come grown through the membrane and on top of it, making it unworkable.

I used to be able to pull up the weeds fairly quickly clearing it of weeds, but that’s no longer the case. Going forward, it would be easier to run a mower over the ground.

Pruning fir tree

The space is home to a very well established fir tree, which has grown leaps and bounds over the years, without much encouragement and I’ve kind of left it to it’s own thing.

Needless to say, it’s become a little bit leggy in places and some branches have grown in the way – so a trim was well overdue.

Amazingly, as I was pruning the tree, I was greeted with a strong, delightful lemon scent – something I’d not experienced before with a fir tree. A Google search has revealed this tree could be none other than the Monterey Cypress Goldcrest.

I will most likely keep this tree in place.

What to do next…

Clearance is still underway, and I’m sure inspiration will come to me as I go as to what to do with this space.

Maybe just focusing on clearing the space should be my goal over the next few weeks, rather than getting caught up in figuring out what to do with it… What do you think?

I’d love to know your thoughts, suggestions and ideas in the comments below 🙂

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Ask Adam

Ask Adam #12: To sow or not to sow…

Rob has written in with this very autumnal query 🙂

Can I sow Autumn king carrots as of now in pots in a poly greenhouse and if so how big do you need the plants to be before replanting in containers

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Allotment Diary

An Allotment Summer 2020

This time of year always amazes me – wherever you look there’ll be a job that needs completing.

A patch of weeding here, a hoeing there, tying up of plants, harvesting, maintaining areas and the list goes on. This year, has felt easier mainly because there’s been a bit more time on our hands – for obvious reasons, that which must not be named.

On top of the allotment, I’ve also been helping with The Vincent Hazel Project – which is a story for another day, but this has taken up a decent chunk of time.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve actively grown anything, because I was rebuilding the beds and trying my hardest to eradicate (or mildly disrupt) mares tail and bindweed, and during that time I took the decision to not do too much growing. Now that I’m growing again – I can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed watching things grow and progress. It truly is a gratifying feeling, especially when you walk away with a trug filled with produce at the end of a visit.

Enjoying the summer at the allotment has been great this year and it’s been great to pick produce each week.

Note to self… You only need about two to four courgette plants…

I created a long raised bed / slash a compost bin and I filled it with a whole manner of green waste consisting on grass cuttings, weeds, and other cuttings and this has made for a great bed for the courgettes.

They’ve been producing consistently each week, to the point where, dare I say it, they’re beginning to lose their lustre – don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining really, I’m secretly always grateful for produce.

We’ve got to the point where we’re making courgette loaves to shift them.

I’ve grown the cucumbers up against old pallet wood, I’ve seen this method through various scrolls on instagram and I have to say that this is a really great idea. Not only does this provide support for the plants, but it also keeps the cucumbers off of the ground, which helps to keep them away from the slugs.

These too have been producing steadily throughout the last few weeks – we’re picking these off and eating them like sweets! Can’t get fresher than that.

The brassicas which currently consist of kale, broccoli, sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower are doing very well at the moment.

We’ve been picking kale each week, and I’ve been coming up with different ways to use it, including creating kale chips. Hopefully, when I’ve perfected this, this will be an upcoming recipe.

There’s been some signs of cabbage fly here and there, and this has resulted in discolouring and shrivelling of leaves. We’ve picked the first of the broccoli and also a couple of heads of cauliflower, which has been a nice treat. 2 cauliflower heads, did sadly become dinner for the slugs. Everyone’s got to eat though right?

The runner beans have subject to a ghastly black fly infestation, which means the growth has become stunted. The leaves are sticky with sap as well. I’ve only managed to pick a handful of beans so far and I don’t hold much hope for the future, but I’m still watering them and I’m hoping for the best ultimately.

I planted these beans in the ground, and next year, I’ve decided I’m going to try and grow them in in pots to help give them a head start to help with any aphidgeddons that may come my way – same with the French beans too.

The onions are doing well too. At first I though they weren’t going to swell, so I’d be a liar if I were to say I wasn’t disheartened at one point.

However – I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the transition of small to large as the tops die off and the bulbs begin to mature.

I’ll need to dig these out at some point and dry these in the shed.

I love the smell of onions drying – it’s a weird thing to like, but I think it’s something unique. It reminds me of autumn.

The root veg has consisted of radishes, carrots and beetroot this year. The radishes were great, so much so they were eaten so quickly that I’ve got no pictures available to show you.

I’ve only attempted to pick a few of the carrots an they’ve not been too big, and they could very pass as baby carrots, some of them are also forked, which isn’t ideal. What I will probably end up doing is, one day I’ll dig them up and either make some sort of soup, roast them or grate them into a salad.

I’ve only had one picking of beetroot thus far, they just look a bit too small at the moment, I’m hoping to get a decent harvest at some point, but I’m prepared that it could be toward the end of the year.

Next year, I think I will look into multisowing to see if this help this is a video about that by Charles Dowding.

The Autumn raspberries are doing ok, but I wish I could say the same for the spring raspberries. With the spring raspberries, there’s gaps and some of the plants look brown and burnt and have shown signs of stunted growth – but I’m not too sure why that could be.

As you’ll see from the pictures below there’s a stark difference between the two rows. If I have time to find out what’s going there, I’ll be sure to let you know what I discover. These plants are just a year old, and I pruned them slightly too early this year, so maybe that early pruning has had something to do with how they’ve started to fail.

We’ve also collected a nice collection of random fruits on our travels which include the usual wild blackberries, red gooseberry bushes, green gooseberry bushes, red and black currant bushes and more recently, we were gifted a set of strawberry plants, an extra gooseberry bush and a grape vine, which is a massive touch – and deserves endless thank yous 🙂 .

A good majority of these are wild, and I really do just leave them to their own devices. Next year, I plan to move the black currents and the currents and focus on getting these plant to produce more fruits over all.

Oh and I mustn’t forget the plum tree – this is doing really well and has some lovely plums that I’m waiting to ripen. I try and keep this pruned so that the energy in the plant goes to the actual fruit rather than to the new growth.

To go with the plum tree, I’m on the lookout for a decent variety of apple that’s good for everyday use as well as cooking – if you know of one, please do feel free to leave a comment below.

So that’s what’s been happening on the plot 🙂 what have you been up to? I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of your labour. 🙂

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Allotment Diary

Planting out – a quick how to…

Planting out is great – you’re at that point where you’ve seen your plants grow from seed, to seedling and now they’re big enough to be released into the wild!

I often try to write about planting out your plants – and the you do this is really simple, and it’s more or less the same for every plant you wish to grow, whether it’s cabbages, sprouts, tomatoes…etc.

I’ve grown from seed cauliflower, cabbages, pak choi, broccoli, sprouts, courgettes and cucumbers – and all in all it took me about week to plant everything out in their entirety.

Don’t cast a clout ’til May is out

Old English

Leading up to planting out, there’s one phrase I always tend to keep with me, and that’s “to not cast a clout until May is out.” A ‘clout’ is an old English word for clothing, so this phrase means to not disregard your winter clothing until the end of May, and this is because we still have a risk of frost until the end of May. (Thanks Google!)

Applied in gardening, this means to not plant out your seedlings until the frost is behind us, as our plants run the risk of being subject to frost damage.

Bed preparation

The bed I chose to plant into was the same one I’d built a brassica cage onto – the ground was a little bit compacted after months of rain and walking on top of it, so I gave the bed a light forking to help with drainage.

It was quite a hot day, and even though the ground was forked, there’s no way I could plant into this bed.

I borrowed on to the top of the forked area a healthy layer of compost from the compost bin to plant into.

Not only does this make it easier to plant into, but it’s also a mulch that will help to reduce weed growth and keep moisture into the ground.

Planting out

  1. First you would need to dig a hole, and to help out with how big the hole should be, you can use the base of the pot as a guide. The hole should be big enough bury the plant.

2. Take the plant outside of the pot, and use your fingers to support the plant and the stem of the plant. The more you can handle the plant from the base the better.

3. Bury the plant into the pre-dug hole and neatly cover the base of the plant with the composted material, making sure that the roots are well covered and the plant is well supported into the ground.

Watering and next steps

Planting out can be a bit of a shock to the system for your plants, so I tend to get into the habit of watering a little bit every day for the first couple of weeks to make sure that they can get established.

Within a couple of weeks, you’ll see your plants take root and this will be reflected in the growth above ground.

You’ll also leaving your plants open to slugs and so you’d want to think about how to manage that. This guide here on dealing with slugs has some helpful tips you can employ to reduce slug damage.

What have you planted out recently? How are you getting on as summer gets underway? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Allotment Diary

How to make seed labels

Making your own garden labels is dead easy! All you need is some scissors and an old pot or piece of packaging.

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Allotment Diary

Separating seedlings

Much like sowing seeds, separating seedlings is more or less the same from plant to plant…