Monday, 30 May 2011

Allotment photographs for the end of May

This is usually when the allotment looks at its best.  The hoards of summer insects have not taken their toll so there is a lushness verging on triffid like; especially the potatoes that have really grown in the last week.  Now this is a working garden and I am not really interested in getting perfect vegetables.  The reason why things are covered is to protect them from insects or the weather rather than to encourage the plants to grow bigger.  If I think that the nets can come off then I will take them off.  Unfortunately, I doubt if I will be able to take the anti carrot root fly and onion miner fly nets off.   I grow in lines in large beds.  I find that this is the most economic way of producing vegetables.  I don't know if this is old fashioned.  I know the Victorian gardeners always used to grow like this.  It is the way I have always gardened and I cannot be doing with little poky raised beds.  There is some talk about raised beds being good because you don't have to walk on them.  Well I walk all over my beds regularly hoeing and weeding.  Does not seem to do my vegetables any harm. Take a look.  With a big allotment like this you need to be able to weed quickly with a hoe and lines of vegetables makes this a lot easier.  The beds are raised to some extent mainly to help with drainage.  The allotment regularly got waterlogged during the winter.  The other reason the soil is high is because I add a lot of organic matter to the soil.  I don't really care what organic matter it is.  I bury anything from laylandii shreddings to cow muck.  Putting concrete slabs around the beds just keeps the soil from falling over the paths.
View of the allotment up the hill
This gives a good view of the north facing slope that I garden on.  You can't see the top beds though.
Comfrey has grown back and is nearly ready to be cropped
I will probably crop the sweet cicely and some nettles before I cut any more comfrey.  
Hamburg parsley being shaded by the rocket

Roots bed.
 I really think that I have planted a little too much rocket.  I know that I like it but there is no way that I can eat all this.  It is beginning to shade the Hamburg parsley so I am going to take this line of rocket out before it goes to seed.
You can see the two new sowings of Woden beetroot too.  The slugs have taken some of these but since I watered on the anti slug nematodes Phasmarhabditis hermaphorodita they have faired much better.
Same plants different view.
The salsify and scorzonera are growing well.  Their seed is quite big and can be spaced out easily in the seed drill.  They may look sparse but they will grow big and there will be more than enough here to make some vegetable curries, stews and soups.  
I am eating the spinach now.  I have had it raw in salads and in a stir fry mix.  The Boltardy beetroot is not going to be thinned out.  I don't like big beetroot so they will be thinned as they are used.  
Carrots under the enviromesh
It just shows you how important it is to cover the carrots completely in a fine mesh net. I have been using this piece of environmesh for many years so it has really been worth while getting it.  It protects the carrots from carrot root fly Psila rosae very well.  There are some holes in it and I was going to sew them up but have not got around to it.  The carrots do not seem to have root fly so I am not going to rush to do it.   You can always tell when the carrots get root fly because the leaves go red or yellow.  

Young parsnips
I put a row of Swiss chard next to the carrots and they are just germinating now.  I put a little comfrey liquid on them to give them a boost.  The thinned parsnips are about 15cm tall now.  I might thin them even more soon because there is no way I will be able to eat all of these when they get bigger.  The new line of spinach is growing quickly.  When this line is big enough, I will take the first sowing out and replace it with something else.  The final row is a line of poppy seeds. I just put poppies in here as a green manure.  It is too near the rhubarb for anything else to grow.  As you can see the rhubarb is growing over the poppies already.  

Strawberries have started to fruit
The strawberries have started to fruit and I have had about 1kg. off them already.  That is minus the ones that I eat at the allotment.  There has been some damage from slugs and ants but not a lot.  The birds do not seem to be having them and even if they are they are not taking very many.  There are so many strawberry plants on the allotment site that they probably take their pick of the very best ones.
The strawberry bed is a bit of a mixture 
The strawberry bed is becoming a bit of a mixture of plants because several people have given me runners from their plants to fill in the gaps where I lost some during the winter.  I got some pink strawberries from someone that gave up their allotment.  They are more decorative than good berriers but they add a little interest into the strawberry patch.  
The raspberries have produced a lot of fruit that will be ripening in June and July.  Everything seems to be early this year but the cold weather in May might set everything back to the correct time scale.  The new raspberries Glen Procen have grown over 6 foot tall but my old raspberries have only grown 4 foot.  I will see which fruits the best this year.  If the Glen Procen fruits well, I might take the old ones out and only use the Glen Procen.  I have not watered the raspberries with comfrey like I usually do.  They still have fruited very well.  These are summer raspberries.  I only like to eat them in the summer.  Autumn ones seem to be out of kilter for me.  I remember as a child picking and eating strawberries on hot summer days.  They are the epitome of summer.  There was some suggestion that you should not plant potatoes near to raspberries.  Does not look like they are affecting these potatoes does it?

Now I have debated on the blog whether a high NPK fertiliser is necessary for potatoes.  The advice from the commercial growers is yes.  However, my potatoes have had some horse manure and leaves dug in during the autumn; some charcoal marinated in comfrey liquid and some mychorrhizal fungi but nothing else.  I have not watered these potatoes during the dry April either.  

My potatoes are taking over the world

Large tops does not necessarily mean lots of spuds

However, I am hopeful
So why have they grown so large?  The inoculated charcoal had been marinading in comfrey liquid all winter so must have soaked up a lot of nutrient.  Whether this has helped the mychorrhizal fungi to form a symbiotic relationship with the potatoes I can only speculate.  What ever is causing the potatoes to grow this big - and remember this is only May we are talking about, they are large and this is not due to high NPK fertiliser because I haven't put any on.  I sometimes use chicken pellets and blood, fish and bone but I have not even bought these this year yet alone put them on the potatoes.    

I have just noticed I have left the swoe out.  I will have to nip down when it stops raining and put that away. Thank heavens it is a sustained period of rain.  

The Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
The Pink Fir Apple Potato took a little longer to come through so are a little smaller.  They are catching up the  Kestrel though. 

The oca was even later coming through than the Pink Fir Apple.  Only two out of the six tubers grew so I will probably keep the tubers that they produce this year and plant them next year to build up a stock.  It may be well worth eating a few of them, though, just to make sure  they are worth the effort.  

My herbs. I have the pots ready for more

Onions under the cloches
This is what you have to do in Wolverhampton to protect the onions from Phytomyza gynostoma, the onion miner fly.  When they are affected their leaves contort and coil around looking very poorly.  The onions under the cloches seem to have avoided the worst ravages of the fly but they do have some distorted leaves.  I will keep watering them and giving them comfrey liquid.  They may well recover if I persist.  

Leeks and onions under the enviromesh.
Even with this amount of protection the onion miner fly has affected the onions under the enviromesh really badly.  The leeks do not seem to be affected at the moment.  I left the onions out in their seed tray overnight and I think that this is when they were infected.  All I can do now is continue to water them and give them comfrey liquid -my cure all for everything.   
Cucumber, lettuce and celeriac
I think that I tried to plant things far too early. They cucumbers have really suffered with the cold weather but the lettuce and the celeriac seem not to be overtly affected.  Still having difficulty with germinating fennel.  Still, got a few and they will probably be enough.  
I have used the nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphorodita twice on the lettuce now and this seems to have benefited them a lot.  There is no slug damage at the moment.  I really need to weed between the plants though because there are a lot of weed seedlings starting to germinate.  

I am not sure whether the garlic is just going over now or if it is being affected by Phytomyza gynostoma.  I am inclined to think that it is the latter.  They are quite big now so maybe it will not affect them too much.  I will continue to water them because this seems to perk them up a bit.  The tulips have gone over now so I will take them out and sort out the largest ones.  These will be the main flowerers next year.  I will store them in the shed until the autumn.  

Sweet cicely and blackberry
The sweet cicely is growing right over the path and really needs to be cropped and put into the comfrey bins.  Herbs benefit from being cut very hard back.  The blackberry Adrienne has particularly big flowers on it.  I am not too sure how good the fruit are because last year they were a little disappointing.  The rhubarb went off a little in April and the beginning of May probably because of the hot dry weather.  It has recovered now but still needs to grow on a little.  I put some anti slug nematodes around it because they seem to attract the slugs and snails really badly.  
October sown sweet peas in foreground
The sweet peas should be flowering now but there has been a lot of bud drop.  I hope that this does not carry on during the summer.  
February sown sweet peas
I am just waiting for them to flower now.  Maybe the rain we are having today will encourage them a little.  All I am doing is weeding, cutting off tendrils and side shoots and tying them up.

Lupins for green manure - but look good too.
The lupins are leguminosae and will fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Their flowers and foliage will be put onto the compost heap or dug in to increase fertility of the soil. 

Aintree runner beans
 I did weed these beans but the weeds keep growing back.
Aintree runner beans

Aintree runner beans
Putting the netting around the runner beans has protected them from the cold weather and the high winds that we have had over the last week.  I pinched out the growing tip of each of the plants and now they are sending up two side shoots.  I may pinch out some more of the growing tips to encourage bushy plants.  

Brassicae bed
The American landcress is growing particularly slowly but I have enough other leaves so it is of no consequence.  I have thinned the swedes out to about six inches apart but I think I will have to thin them even more later.  I sowed the kohlrabi very thinly and this has meant that I did not really need to thin them.  They are a red kohlrabi mainly just for interest.  

Brassicae bed 2
The Golden Acre cabbages are growing well.  I am hoping for some big cannon ball cabbages so I am watering quite often with comfrey liquid.  The calabrese and the summer purple sprouting are next with the summer cauliflowers securely tucked under a fine mesh net.  I hate it when the cabbage white butterflies   Pieris brassicae caterpillars crawl right into the cauliflower so this is to prevent that from happening.  

There are another two winter purple flowering brocolli lines then a line of red Brussel sprouts and a line of turnips.  The turnips are supposed to taste like mellon but I will reserve judgement until I can sample them.  

The blooming broad beans are right in the way. I thought that I would have cropped them and had them out before now but they are only just forming fruit. I will be patient though.   

The Brussel sprouts and peas
Brussel sprouts and one line of winter cauliflowers.

Brussel sprouts from the path
I have taken the net off the Brussel sprouts because I think that the plants are big enough for the pigeons to leave them alone.  The nets were not good enough to keep the cabbage white butterflies away from the plants so there is no point in keeping them on.  I will be able to weed, hoe up and inspect for caterpillars much more easily without the nets on them.  The nets are stored in a big compost darlek so they will not clutter up the store shed.  The next job is to hoe the plants up.  I hoe the plants up because it is a bit of a deterrent against cabbage root fly Delia radicum and also it encourages the plants to produce roots that will aid stability when they get a little bigger.  

Again, I think that I was unduly influenced by the very hot dry April and put the squashes out far too early.  They have been affected by the cold weather and winds but they are recovering now.  The peas are about 4 foot tall now but they are not flowering yet.  

First sowing of Early Onward peas
I have had to put strings up to support them because they are growing over the chicken wire supports now.    
Second sowing of peas

Third sowing

Fourth sowing - not much difference is there?
I don't think it matters when you sow the seed for peas they all mature at about the same time.  I might get a week between each one of them but not much more.  I would just like to see them start to flower.  I think that I have made it a little too comfortable for them and they are not really inclined to start to reproduce.  I have stopped giving them comfrey liquid but this does not seem to have slowed their prodigious growth.  However, big plants do not necessarily produce the best crop.  I will see.  
Mange tout peas
The mange tout peas seem to be growing very much slower than the Early Onward.  I did give these some comfrey liquid yesterday.  
Dwarf French beans
Well actually there are two lines of Cannellini and two lines of Bortolotti beans.  After a lot of effort to get these beans to germinate I eventually got them big enough to put into the allotment.  Now I have to keep the slugs off them.  
The climbing French beans and others

Climbing French beans.  
The Cobra climbing French beans were a little devastated by slugs until I used some of the nematodes to prevent this from happening.  I planted them a little too close to the aubrietia - prime slug habitat.   They have recovered but they need some sustained warm weather to get them to climb up the support poles.  
So this is the state of the allotment at the moment.  Hopefully it will get better over the next month but it makes it interesting if I have to battle with the elements a little.  

That is what you can do without a poly tunnel (hoop house).  It is easier to protect your vegetables if you use a poly tunnel but I find it more fun to see if I can get as good from outside planted vegetables.  

Now, at least, I will be able to have a little variety in my vegetables.  

Monday, 23 May 2011

Exhibition sweet peas - taking off side shoots and tendrils.

In order to get really big flowers on sweet peas, I take off the side shoots and tendrils on the main stem.  I try to take the side shoots off before they get too big but they do grow very quickly. If you leave them for any length of time, bigger ones have to be removed .  The big ones I cut out with a pair of scissors, while the smaller ones can be pinched out with finger and thumb.
Sweet pea with side shoots and tendrils.
You can see that this Restormel sweet pea is lolling about because I had not tied it up for about 3 days.  They have grown very quickly and you have to keep an eye on them.  If the stem distorts, then the flowers are not as good as they would be from straight stems.  There are no flower buds on this plant although it should be developing flowers fairly soon now.

In order to keep the stem as straight as I can, I tie the stem or leaves onto the cane with green garden wire.  Garden wire is quite a harsh material to tie them up with and it can damage the leaves or stem.  This disadvantage has to be tempered with the advantage of speed.  If I had to tie up each sweet pea plant with string, it would take much longer than the three hours it took to take off the tendrils; remove the side shoots and tie the stems yesterday afternoon.

Row of tied up Valerie Harrod Sweet pea
I had taken off all the tendrils and the side shoots of the Valerie Harrod before I remembered I wanted to take a photograph of sweet peas with them left on.  The plants are over 300mm tall now so they will be forming their first flower buds.  The first flower stalks usually have two or three flower buds.  I am aiming to get at least four flower buds on each stem.  In order for the flowers to be exhibition standard they should be fairly equal distance apart with no big gaps on the stem.  If you are growing outside, then this is quite difficult to achieve.  Those growing indoors will be able to regulate the watering and feeding to a much higher degree and this means the flowers will be more evenly distributed.  

The aim for me is to produce as near to exhibition standard as I can outside.  

You might find this funny but I am not planning to exhibit any of my sweet pea flowers.  The fun for me is to see if I can get my flowers better than those that do exhibit their flowers.  

Like the last scene in the Jericho Mile with Peter Strauss, I've got my own Olympics going on here.  It's all about awe and wonder.  

Awe, I wonder why I'm doing this.

To get a full description of how I grow sweet peas have a look at:

The nematode worms arrived on Thursday last week and I put them on the allotment on Friday.  It says that you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days without damaging them.  I put them on the squashes, the climbing French beans, the courgettes, the runner beans, the lettuce and the beetroot.  All plants that slugs seem to devour with relish.  They seem to be doing their job because the climbing French beans are beginning to recover from their devastation.  The rhubarb seemed to be affected by slugs and snails so I put some nematodes under their leaves.

I planted two rows of bortolloti beans in the pea and bean bed.  It might still be too early for things like these but it is getting towards the end of May so, regardless of the unseasonal weather, I would be putting them out now anyway.  I watered them in with dilute comfrey liquid but I did not add mychorrhizal fungi to the planting hole.  When I planted the seed I put some mychorrhizal fungi in the pot.  I just have enough room to plant the Cannellini beans.

This bed was hoed with the big hoe and the onion hoe.

I took off the nets and hoed between the brassicae plants.  They all seem to be growing very well.

I seemed to have sown the turnip and the radish very thinly because although they have germinated there are not as many as I was expecting.  I am going to sow another row of them this week so it does not matter a great deal.

I took out a row of brocolli plants I had planted earlier in order to plant some red Brussel sprouts.  There is no way that I will use the brocolli from three rows so I thought  I could sacrifice one in the cause of novel Brussel sprouts.  The Brussel sprouts were a freebe given to me by "Tony down the bottom".  Thanks Tony.

Another freebe that Andy gave me was two red cabbage.  Now this is sensible because sometimes I put a full row of red cabbage in and there is just so much pickled cabbage that you can eat in a year or two...

Two red cabbages are sufficient.

The only brassicas that I like to feed are the cabbages and the summer cauliflowers.  I gave each row a good dose of dilute comfrey liquid.  Now remember that the "comfrey liquid" is really a mixture of nettles, sweet cicely and comfrey so has a relatively high nitrogen content.  This is what we want for leafy vegetables.

Most of the time I spend on the allotment  is in  keeping the weeds down so hoeing with Dutch hoe, swoe and onion hoe seems to take up a lot of my time.  I had to hand weed between the climbing French beans and the runner beans because it was awkward to get the hoe into the space between the canes.

I also like to hand weed along the rows of roots because then you can start to thin out as well.  I will definitely have  to thin the carrots this week.

The onions got a good feed with dilute comfrey liquid and were sprayed with some gumption to keep the onion miner fly away.  I doubt whether it will but you can try.

I planted another row of lettuce; a row of leeks and a row of celeriac in the space I had left.  Now allotment 26 is full and I cannot squeeze anything else into it.

I hoed up the pink fir apple potatoes a little more.  They did not really need it but it helps to hoe out the weeds.  There weren't many weeds to speak of but what there were were dealt with.

Picked some more strawberries.  Then went down to the comfrey patch to plant some walking stick cabbages.  They are just a novelty plant but I want to see peoples faces when they start to grow very big.

The second row of the Woden beetroot and the rainbow Swiss chard have germinated and are starting to grow well.

I took several lettuce from the first row I planted together with spinach and rocket to make a salad with.  They have gone a bit limp from Sunday but I still put them into a sandwich today and they tasted fantastic.  With a following of strawberries and cream what else could you want?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The first strawberry of 2011

People in the south have probably been eating strawberries since April but I am proud to announce that I had my first strawberry for 2011 today. And it tasted excellent.

I  think that my strawberries have always started to fruit in Wimbledon week.  This year Wimbledon is 
20 June - 3 July.  

So this year the strawberries are about one month in advance. 

Now all I want is for all the other strawberries to fruit.  If they continue until 3rd of July then I will be more than happy.   

Monday, 16 May 2011

Planting out brassicae seedlings

Cabbages like good firm soil. If you dig in some horse manure they will like this too. They are a leafy veg so like nitrogen. I don't use any fertilisers for Brussel sprouts though because that makes the buds 'blow' or open out.

When I plant, I like to dig a trowel hole just big enough for the root ball. I put the seedlings into the hole and then go along the row 'puddling' in the plants. This means that I fill the hole with water - well I use dilute comfrey liquid. This washes soil into the hole and begins to cover the roots. You have to be careful not to wash the plants out of the hole. I hate to see my brassicas keeling over after I have planted them and doing it this way means that they stay upright and healthy.

Finally, I will go along the row scraping the soil back into the hole with the trowel.

After planting I cover the seedlings with plastic netting to keep the pigeons off the plants. 

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Removing side shoots and tendrils from exhibition sweet peas.

These sweet peas have had their tendrils removed 
If you remove the tendrils and the side shoots of sweet peas, you get large stemmed flowers.  I cut the tendrils off with a pair of scissors and rub out the side shoots with my finger and thumb.  The tendrils and side shoots do not grow back.  Each leaf has its own tendril that will have to be removed.  New side shoots will grow int he axil of each leaf and new ones will grow from ground level.  If you leave the tendrils on they entwine themselves around the stems of the flowers and make them contort.

This is fine if you are just growing them for the house.  However, if you are growing for exhibition then you don't really want this to happen.  Removing their natural means of climbing causes them to flop about all over the place unless you tie them up.  I use wire because it is the most convenient way of doing it.

The problem with wire is that it can squash or even break the stem.  The convenience of using wire outweighs the disadvantages but to alleviate the disadvantages even more, I only tie around leaves.  If you break a leaf the plant will grow another.  If you break the stem then you have to wait until a side shoot is big enough to take over the main stem role.

If you think about it you will realise that the sweet pea is supported by its leaves when it climbs using its tendrils.  So the leaves and the leaf stalks  must be strong enough to bear the weight of the plant as it is climbing. I would suggest that this is a good way of tying up sweet peas.

I was going to feed all the sweet peas with dilute comfrey liquid but they are growing so quickly and healthily that I didn't think that they needed any further mollycoddling.  I hoed down each of the rows mainly to slow water evaporation and prevent the soil from drying out.    If you can keep the soil surface friable and loose it will keep the soil damp lower down.

Have a look at:

I find the hoe and the swoe most useful tools.  If used properly then you can remove a lot of weed seedlings relatively quickly by severing them from their roots.  While it can be used against bigger plants it is best to use it to remove small weed seedlings.  If you do it on a hot day the weed seedlings shrivel and die quickly.  I skim through the soil as shallowly as I can because going deeper will not necessarily cut off the roots.  I tend to use a Dutch hoe because they are strong enough to go through the toughest ground.  I sharpen my hoe so that it cuts through the soil easily.  I always try to hoe forwards standing in an adjacent row so that I do not tread on where I have just hoed.

I like to hoe regularly and always hoe where there does not seem to be any weeds.  This causes the just germinated weed seeds to be disturbed and die.

Apart from this, I find hoeing a very therapeutic activity because hoes are just the right for leaning on.

I planted another row of lettuce using comfrey liquid to water them in.  I would like to put some nematode worms around them but, as they have not arrived from Unwins, I do not have that option.

I have just enough space here for a row of celeriac and a couple more rows of leeks.  The only other space  on the allotment is between the peas and the climbing French beans.  I am hoping to put the dwarf French beans in here if I can nurture them to grow a little more.

Mick gave me some heirloom sweet peas so I planted these to make a column using canes and plastic netting.

I watered them in with comfrey liquid.  Only one oca plant seems to be growing at the moment.  I will continue to wait and see whether the other five are going to grow.

I didn't hoe up the potatoes again.  They seem to be making quite a good canopy over the soil and this will shade out all but the most persistent weeds.  A quick going over with the onion hoe will clear off any weeds that do grow.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Today I will be mostly weeding.

At this time of the year there is a bit of a lull in the things to do department on the allotment.  I have transplanted some red Brussel sprouts into 3 inch pots.  I am not too sure what name they go under because they were given to me.

The celeriac has grown quite a bit in the greenhouse.  I gave some to Mick.  Tony, who had given me them, said they were bigger than his.  I will leave mine in the greenhouse for a little bit longer and then plant them out next to the leeks in the onion bed.

I have finally got the French beans to germinate.  Why they were such hard work I don't know.

 I took up two trays of lettuce to the allotment but I did not plant them out.  I will do that tomorrow.  I pricked out the new sowing of lettuce into sectioned trays.  I have far too many but I will be able to give a lot away.  It is amazing the good will you generate when you give people little plants.  I am going to do this a lot more from now on.  I have planted some more brassicae seed just in case.  One or two plants have been eaten by slugs.  The Nematodes have not come yet.

I am not going to buy them from Unwins again.  They may be cheaper but I would rather pay more and get them delivered when I want them.  I am going to email them to see where they are. WHERE ARE MY NEMASLUG NEMATODES UNWINS???

I planted another line of Woden beetroot and then took the enviromesh off the carrots and weeded them.  I was going to thin the carrots but I don't think that they need to be thinned yet.  I did sow them quite thinly so they will not suffer from another week without being thinned.  I sowed a line of rainbow Swiss chard.  I will probably only use the 'baby' leaves in salad because I don't really like chard cooked.

I thinned and weeded the parsnips.  I have got them about 6 inches apart now and I might decide to thin them even more later.

Two potatoes were coming up in the parsnips so I dug down with a trowel but did not find them.  They will continue to irritate me.

The new line of spinach has germinated and is growing well.  This is another leaf I would rather eat raw than cooked.   Tony had given me a few Blue Lake climbing French beans and I used these to replace the ones that the slugs got because UNWINS HAVE NOT SENT ME THE NEMASLUG NEMATODES YET.  This is one place where I am definitely going to put them if they ever arrive.

Hoed and weeded the peas and the squashes.  The squashes are surviving even though there has been several very cold nights.  Went down to the brassicas and hoed all of these.  It is a bit of a chore because I had to take the nets off but it isn't that bad and the nets went back on really quickly.  While the nets were off I gave the cabbage, cauliflowers and the broad beans a good feed with comfrey liquid.

When I had finished all of this it was tea break time and I toddled off to make a cup of tea.  I had to walk over to the shop because I did not have any milk. Sat down and poured a cup of tea then had a snooze.  What is life if full of care there is no time to stand and stare?  No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.  No time to see, in broad daylight streams full of stars like skies at night.  No time to turn at Beauty's glance and watch her feet - how they can dance  No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began.  A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare - or at least have a snooze.  You and me both William Henry.

Really I should have gone home but I wanted to get at least one row of sweet peas tied up because they were in danger of flopping over.  Once I had started, I realised they were not as bad as I thought.  I did do one line but I left the others for tomorrow.  It started to rain .

Tomorrow, I will mainly finish the sweet peas, plant the lettuce and possibly hoe the potatoes up again.  The potatoes don't need hoeing up again but it is a good way of weeding them.  I have cut all the stolons off the strawberries so they put all their energy into making big fruit.  I hope that I get some big fruit now.

I have cropped two lettuces, some rocket and spinach leaves for dinner today.   Picked, washed and eaten within an hour.  Lovely jubbly...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Allotment photographs for May

The April photographs are at:

I may well have put things out a little too early.  There is a threat of cold weather on Saturday this week.  If you are reading this in 2012 Tone DON'T PLANT TOO EARLY.
Well here are the photographs for May.

The comfrey patch looks a little unkempt because I have just cropped most of it and put it in the green bins in the background.  The bins are chocker block full now because I have also cropped nettles from various sources around the allotment site.  It is certainly making a really rich liquid fertiliser.

A good view of the allotment up the hill.  This side of the hill is north facing and exposed with severe cold winds and frost.  If  you can garden here you can garden anywhere.  The carrots are coming along well but they need to be weeded and thinned now.  I will take off the netting to do this.  Carrot root fly will not get to the carrots if they are not exposed to the elements for too long.  

Salsify, Scorzonera, then spinach, rocket, two rows of Boltardy beetroot and a second row of rocket (I like rocket).  The Hamburg parsley and the Woden beetroot have germinated but you cannot see them in this photograph.  

Three rows of parsnips with Swiss chard on the left - but not germinated yet, spinach on the right similarly not germinated yet and a further row of poppies not germinated yet.  Two or three potato plants growing in the middle of this area.  Apart from sieving the soil, I cannot see how you can ensure that you remove every last potato from the ground.  I will have to dig down quite deep to get these ones out and I hope that I don't disturb the seedlings.
Strawberries have fruit on them already.  They are quite big as well.  I have been taking off the runners with a pair of scissors.  If you do this all the energy of the plant will go into making fruit.  After the strawberries have fruited then I will let some of them have runners and keep the plants that they make.  

The back rows are mainly Marshmallow and the front ones are mostly Cambridge.
The oca should have been growing here but there is no sign of it yet.  I do hope that it comes.  I don't think that I will be eating any of it this year.  I will just keep the tubers for next year - if these ones grow.  

A lot of the potatoes have got caught by the frost.  It does not seem to have stopped them from growing.  I have tried to hoe them up as much as I can to cover the foliage but as you can see they are far too big for that now.  I will just have to grin and bear it.
The raspberries are growing well.  This is their second year in this ground and they are not as big as my previous plants grew.  I will get bigger plants next year.  These are the only soft fruit that never goes home.  I eat them all at the allotment.  

The sweet corn and squashes seem to have suffered from the frost too.  I think that they will recover but I might loose one or two of them.  I planted them in the allotment far too early because of the hot April weather.

This is what I have to do to protect the onions and the leeks from the leek miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma.  What are things coming to that we have to protect onions?  Still I am determined to get some good leeks and onions this year come what may.
Garlic in the foreground with three rows of lettuce, half a row of celeriac and Florence fennel then a row of cucumber.  The tarpaulin is where I am going to put the late sowing of leeks.  The nematode worms seem to have done their work here because there is no sign of slugs or snails in this area.
Garlic is getting quite big now.  It will probably start going brown next month and be out by the end of June.  They say that garlic should be planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day.  Well that might happen this year.

The blackberry has very large flowers but last year the fruit were very disappointing.  I am hoping for better things this year.  The sweet cicely has grown like this since it rained.  I will have to take another crop from it but the butts are full so I will have to leave if for the time being.
Jilly and Eclipse Sweet Pea

Mollie Rilstone and Bristol Sweet Pea
My first lupin this year.  
   Although the sweet peas still look small they are growing at a pace.  They are quite hardy plants and the frost has not affected them at all.
April 24th                Restormel and Valerie Harrod Sweet Pea.              May 10th
I am really glad that I protected the beans with a bit of old netting.  They have not suffered from the frost at all.  I have pinched out all the growing tips to encourage side shoots to develop.  This way I get more beans.

There is a line of American land cress, swedes, kohlrabi and then cabbage, calabrese and summer flowering brocolli.  The summer cauliflowers are under another net held up with black hoops of water pipe.  This is to stop the cabbage white butterflies getting to them.  Two lines of winter flowering brocolli and three lines of winter cauliflowers.  

 I knew that the broad beans would get in the way of the brassicas.  They are growing well and have no blackfly at the moment.  I will be pinching out the growing tips soon to make sure that I don't attract any of these aphids into the allotment.

I put the nets up with no great planning.  A few canes and the netting stretched over the brassicas like this will keep the pigeons away.  This will not stop the cabbage white butterflies but I can deal with these caterpillars later.  

Four rows of Onward peas.  They are supposed to be in succession but they are catching each other up and they will probably all crop at exactly the same time.    
The mange tout peas seem to be very slow in growing.  I did water them during the hot weather but they did not respond as much as the garden peas.

I thought that the climbing French beans had escaped any damage from the frost but they were slightly burnt and so too were the courgettes.
That is the end of the allotment and the end of this blog entry.

Now have a look at the photographs for the end of may.
See how the plants have shot up.