First seed sowing of 2017

Of course, the start of March signals seed-sowing time. It’s still a bit chilly here so I’ve started a few seeds inside and plan to move them out into the zip-up greenhouse before transferring to the plot a bit later in the spring.

Planted so far are tumbling and vine tomatoes, mangetout and various chillis. The mangetout were by far the quickest to appear, poking through the soil within five days or so. I sowed both red and yellow tumbling tomatoes but only one of the yellow seeds germinated. You only get 15 in a pack and 1/15 seems like a bit of a rubbish result but never mind. I also have the chocolate tomatoes from the Real Seed Catalogue too so fingers crossed they’ll do better.

 

Asparagus excitement

This morning I spotted several exciting new developments on the allotment. First up, the asparagus which has started poking through the weeds. I knew there was an asparagus bed in one of the raised beds, but I didn’t know there was more on the left hand side of the plot. I did tread on one of the spears so I’m hoping it’ll recover.

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My first crocus has also appeared! I planted these way back in November so it seems like they’ve taken ages. Daffodils and anenomes yet to appear.

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We’re having sausage and mash tonight so I dug up loads of horseradish. It was a bit rainy and all the other plotholders had disappeared into their sheds so there was no one around to offer some to. It’s in danger of taking over the bottom end of the plot so I dug up more than we need just to try and get rid of some of it. Here’s the two pieces when I dig them up and then one of them in the kitchen sink so you can see what a monster it is.

Four months in

It’s four months since I took over plot 45 and here’s how it’s changed. The first photo was day 1, the second was two months in and the third was lunch time today.

There’s still endless black bags full of plastic, broken glass old tools and other weird finds, a ridiculous amount of weeds and tree branches to burn, plus the re-emergence of weeds as the weather warms up, but I think it looks like we’re making progress.

Today I put down some weed-supressing fabric to see if it has any effect keeping the mare’s tail and bindweed at bay. One useful find amongst the debris was a couple of metal tent pegs that I anchored it with, along with some bricks and bits of paving slab.

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Can you see in the pictures the gradual clearing of stuff from the giant metal boat-shaped pit of doom? I pulled about 50 canes out of it today along with a small stool and lots more dried wood and bindweed so fingers crossed for some dry weather and another bonfire at the weekend.

Springtime

The sun came out today so I sped down to the plot with my helper.

I didn’t intend to stay long but ended up getting quite a bit done. The main thing was that I marked out the edges of some of the beds with some of the many bricks I’ve found strewn around. The beds had been kind of overflowing onto the path and making things look even messier than they already are, so I scraped the soil off the paths, dug down a bit at the edges and sunk bricks in.

I also found a rhubarb sprout in amongst the piles of rubbish on the left of the plot so I popped it into the main bed. That should see us sorted for maybe a crumble between two later this year.

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There were signs of Spring everywhere: buds appearing, blossom on my neighbour’s plot and lots of new horse’s tail and bindweed appearing. There was also a very relaxed black cat napping behind my fence.

In terms of planting, I put in a couple more broad beans, sowed some of the ‘mystery mix’ radishes my sister bought me from The Real Seed Catalogue, and sowed nasturium seeds in the old oil drum that’s sunk into the ground. I also found this cheery duck under a fallen tree.

These worms were wriggling around when I moved a paving stone which hopefully will eventually form part of some stepping stones across the big bed.

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Next on the list is to think about how we handle the emerging horse’s tail and bindweed. The horse’s tail will definitely need spraying with weedkiller but that means I can’t plant anything until after it’s dealt with and it seems to be everywhere. I know my seed stash will keep until next year but it’s very sad to think we might not actually be able to grow much at all for another year. Fingers crossed that the garlic and beans we’ve sown already can hold their own against the weed invasion.

Return of the weeds, and some mystery shoots

As the weather’s warming up, the newly exposed and dug over beds at the plot are getting a covering of little weeds, which I expected.

I’ve also been looking out for the return of the bindweed and horse’s tail so today I did an experimental dig into the top raised bed and was unsurprised to discover lots of new bindweed roots. I was quite shocked at the amount of them though, just a month or so after we last dug everything out of that bed. Here’s the ones I pulled out in a few minutes today.

I’d been considering moving my broad bean seedlings from where I planted them to one of the bigger main beds so after the bindweed discovery I thought I’d better have a root around in there too, to see how bad things were.

Not so much bindweed in this one, but I did find lots of these black roots with tiny green shoots. I don’t think they’re horse’s tail as the roots didn’t seem to be deep enough and they were easy to pull up. So what are they? Any ideas?

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And final mystery plant / weed of the day – does anyone know what these are?

They’re in a spot that wasn’t as vigorously dug over as the rest as it’s right beside the largest bramble bush in the world  (look at its huge base!). I thought they were weeds so pulled a couple up but then wondered whether they might turn out to be something nice. Unlikely I know, but maybe it’s worth waiting a bit to see what they do next.

 

Checking up on my garlic and broad beans

It suddenly feels like Spring is nearly here this weekend, and obviously that means more time at the allotment – yay!

I dragged my slightly unwilling allotment helper along and we got loads more done than I would have done on my own. I think he enjoyed his first allotment bonfire experience too.

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I was keen to check up on my garlic and broad beans. The beans and most of the garlic were planted before Christmas, with a few more garlic cloves (Provence Wight) planted in January. The ones planted later are pretty much the same size as those planted earlier. I’ve never grown garlic before so I don’t have anything to compare it to but I think they’re looking pretty good.

The broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) are doing ok as well, except for one which I think must have been eaten by slugs, hence the protective layer of straw that’s now around them, hopefully protecting them from any further slug-attack.

Now it’s warmer there are more and more plot holders appearing and I’ll have to get used to not having the whole place to myself any more. The plus side is that we met a lovely man today who was really encouraging about the transformation in our plot since we took it on in November which was a nice reminder that we have got loads done in our first three months as allotmenteers.

Sad-looking Honeysuckle

My back yard gets no sun at all. None. Years ago, in an attempt to brighten it up, my mum got me an evergreen Honeysuckle which she thought might do ok in the dark, damp yard, and give some greenery throughout the year.

I love Honeysuckle – we had it in the back garden when I was small and it was always covered with pink and yellow flowers with their long, thin petals.

Mine has been in situ about seven years now and has grown but never looks much better than this:

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It once had a couple of small flowers which was pretty exciting but it’s mostly winding bare stalks and a few dark leaves.

Anyway, now I have the allotment, I also have metal fencing on two sides, one of which looks onto the pavement on the neighbouring street. It’s currently covered in bindweed and brambles and I’d like something nicer to cover the fence and give some privacy. So I thought I’d take a cutting from the Honeysuckle and see if it does any better on the plot where it will get more sun and have room to grow.

I did some googling and was confused by talk of hardwood and softwood cuttings, best times of year to take cuttings and so on. Over Christmas I decided to just chop off a couple of sprigs and pop them in water to see if they rooted.

After a couple of weeks in a pint glass of water, they had lots of nice looking roots.

And once the weather warmed up a bit, I potted them outdoors, ready to take to the allotment when the bindweed is cleared and they can take their place against the back fence.

I wonder whether it’s worth also relocating another cutting to the front of the house where it’ll get more sun and replacing its space in the back yard with something more suited to the shade?