Monday, 27 April 2009

Digging for Plot 121 & other goings on....

I had some great news this week, and that was that my friend Nigel was first on the lotty waiting list and got offered plot 121, which is a 75 square metre plot.

Ok, so what's so great about that is what you are thinking right?

Well , what is so great about that is that he has heard that I was looking for a little more growing space, and he has very kindly offered me half!

Yipppppeeeeee. This will be just right for my asparagus, strawberries, pumpkins and squashes! Perfect in fact.

I couldn't believe my good luck.

The bad news is that it is covered in couch grass, along with a few brambles here and there.

We, Nigel & I, spent a little time on "making a start" on Saturday morning, and did quite well between us as you can see.

However the real work was achieved on Sunday, when 2 hours + , 3 workers, one supervisor (Arthur) Laddie the dog, a flask of home made parsnip soup, two packets of crips, some coffee a bottle of tap water and a dairy milk bar later and we got cracking.

(photo's will follow I promise)

As promised....

I am now officially a tenant of a tenant on Plot 121. It's right down the other end of the site, which is great news for me, because (a) I get to meet a whole load of new people and (b) when Mrs. Chicken Wire (see "a sad day at the plot" 9 Nov 2008)turns up to work on her "oh I bought all my plants from the garden centre cause I work full time and I haven't go time to raise from seed" (she shouts this when talking to Mavis to make sure that I hear her for some reason - very amusing) plot and shoots me dirty looks the whole time, I can escape down the other end of the site and work there instead, or use my Greenhouse which is a great hiding place at present!

News now from 144

I arrived at around 9am on Saturday morning and I put in my peas, after deliberating as to where they were to go. These are the peas that my little friends Ellie & Tom planted at the begining of the month. Two rows of support have been put up, even though I don't yet have enough peas to plant out yet. This is because the plan is to plant some each month and have a stead supply, so now there is a new batch of peas in the GH ready for next month! Good plan. Just hope it works!

I then decided that the sweetcorn was big enought to go in too. My inspiration for this choice of planting that day was fellow allotmenteer & neighbour Chris. His parents turned up with a car load of home reared allotment plants of every variety, including sweetcorn! His allotment looks "instant" and very professional already, considering his very short time scale as a plot holder. Well done Chris and I should also say thanks to his lovely wife Karen as she cooked us all the most wonderful dinner that night (so I could stay at the lotty for longer!!)

Half way through the day, my lovely hubby Ian turned up with one of my favourite lotty lunches - that good old traditional British favourite - Chips from the Fish & Chip shop. Mmmm.

He is sitting in my virtual patio using the paving slabs that will eventually help to create my real patio as a table!

Then it was a case of watering the greenhouse plants and seedlings, including the seeds I am growing for Arthur (cos lettuce) and the seedlings I have saved & and looking after for Nigel, aubergines, broccoli, sweet pepper and tomatoes (my greenhouse sounds like a rescue/distribution centre already!)

Sunday - well Sunday started bright and ealry at 9am. Quick Greenhouse check, down to the trading hut to find Nigel my new partner, got roped into weighing up some horrible smelling fertilizer and then off to 121 to crack on as mentioned above.

Exhausted and after a packet of crisps and some water, I earthed up my earlies and 2nd earlies. I then went home for a 20 minute break and returned with a new energy.

My intention was to simply mulch in my fruit trees and water the plot and go, as Mrs Chickenwire was there and the dirty looks had already started! However I got talking to my plot neighbour Paul (144a, so behind me) as he was digging away. I felt a little silly standing there chatting whilst he was digging, so I went to get my spade and fork and we both dug his plot whilst having a nice chat!

During this his son Timmy wanted help with building a scarecrow, so under my expert tuition he ended up with Scarey Scarecrow

What I said would be half an hours digging turned quickly into an hour and a half, but the amount we got dug together was brilliant. Paul was then able to go onto planting his potatoes!

I was knackered after that.

The end.

Oh, sorry, not quite the end - I forgot to mention that once back home, I helped lovely hubby Ian by joining him in a few hours of gardening, as it needed tidying up after the winter, and as we had such nice weather it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Snail Trails, the Greenhouse & lotty folk....

A few pictures taken over the last week - snail trails (they travel far!) the greenhouse (getting smaller everyday) and allotment folk enjoying the good weather

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Monday, 20 April 2009

A full weekend at 144

What a wonderful weekend - nearly full time at the lotty!
Hubby was working, so I could spend as much time there as I needed too, so I made the most of every minute.

To start with, I offered to do Nigels shift at the Trading Hut, so I spent Saturday morning in there from 11am to 1pm. I spent over £50 myself, on bits and pieces that I needed like organic slug pellets, some more whale pots for my tomatoes and the build a balls that I ordered in to create a brassica cage. I also had some money on my slate (opps) which I needed to clear, so my cheque book - ok I know, cheque book - what's that I hear you ask? I spent ages finding mine and the last time I actually wrote a cheque was in June 2007! But it came in handy this time.

Ok, so one of my first jobs was to re site Tatty & Hilda, however I had 2 things to do before I could do this.
1. deciding on where they should go &
2. I have to fix Hilda as her stake had snapped in two - was it vandals or the wind? we may never know.
Fortunately I am starting to get a tool box together, and one item that I now have in my shed is a hammer, so I nailed the stake to join in several places, and then for good measure I cable tied the area too - so Hilday is fixed and fit and healthy again.
After much deliberation, they have been sited behind the little wood (skirting board) barrier along the fence, which will mean that they will not get in the way of me working on the plot itself.

My next job was to clear and prepare raised bed # 2. This had cabbages which had bolted and previous to that it also housed the brussel sprouts, all of which had now been eaten.
Can I just mention here that the leaves of the bolted cabbages are excellent, steamed, chopped and served with dinner!
So I cleared, weeded, raked, de stoned, raked, de stoned and raked again.
Here is Grub, taking care of the newly prepared bed which I will use for all my salad stuff like lettuce, rocket & mizuna - I may put some tomatoes in there too as I feel like I am quickly running out of space already!

Job 3 was to clear the top of bed#3 and weed the rest of that bed too. It currently has broad beans down the path end and spring cabbages in the middle - now it also has some broccoli with two rows of radishs planted either side.
Ok, so they don't look fantastic do they, but I am hoping that they will improve. I grew them in coir pots and planted them all straight out, so no root disturbance - fingers crossed then.

Job 4 was to "pretty up" the boring column posts. I made a string climber and planted out the sweet peas. I repeated this on all 3 columns so it should look very pretty once in full bloom.

Job 5 was to construct the build a ball cage for my brassicas. It didn't go to plan straight away, but I got there in the end. One thing you do need are a good thickness bamboo cane, a thin one is pointless, so I have alot of swopping around to deal with! At least its in place now, and I know the space it's going to take up, so I can plant to the right of it without the guess work!

Job 6 was to re dig, rake, de stone and de weed the little bed that I had prepared for lovely Hubby Ian. He can't decide what to plant this year so he has allowed me to put in my final stock of maincrops - Cara. This seemed to take forever, but I got there in the end.

Job 7 was to have a wander around and chat with the "locals" A lot of people are still in uproar about the non cultivation letters they have recieved, so this also meant alot of activity at the site this weekend - there were plots being dug, sheds going up, shrieks of kids playing and picnics taking place!
Job 8 - planting a full row of beetroot which we love to eat.
Job 9 - washing out tin cans (I have been collecting for ages and before Alys from Gardeners World suggested it - I remember my Nannu (granddad) growing tomatoes in his back yard in large tins that used to have olive oil in them, so I probably knew about this before Alys was even born!! And no, I didn't use the ones with the ring pulls - just regular every day cans that I put drainage holes in the bottom of, filled with compost and planted various herb seeds into.

And finally.......

Two pictures of plot 144 as it is today - above is taken from the fruit trees looking down &
below is taken pretty much from the very top end & at the start of the raised beds.

I am sure that there are a few other things that I did, but for the life of me, I can't remember - it was such a busy weekend as you have just read!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter Weekend - Digging it!

I am thrilled that my lovely Hubby Ian wants a bit of my plot to grow his own in.
However he said that this year I can use his "bit" to put my unaccounted from Maincrop potatoes in as I thought I only had one lot, but in fact I have two lots, so now I have the extra room.
So I got my spade out and got digging. The roots were MASSIVE but I was determined to do this little patch of plot by the end of the early morning, so I dug and dug and dug from 8am to 9.30am one morning, went home for a cuppa and a chat, and then back to the lotty for more work.

One interesting thing to note is that I have heard that there are a lot of cultivation orders that have been sent by the Council to plot holders - so if they don't have more than 70% of their plot cultivated, they have to give it up. They each have 28 days to make amends. I suppose it makes sense as we have such a big/long waiting list!

Above and below, you can see that I have been brave, and taken the bell cloches from the Hops plants (Prima Donna). I have put their strings in place and gently coaxed their little stems around the string to hopefully persuade it in the right direction.

And this is my lovely Hubby, who came down later in the day to try to fix my newly purchased Automatic louvre vent opener for me. However, without the manufacturers providing the right bits and bobs, it proved a little more difficult than the instructions had promised, so I am back to "manual" opening, until items are purchased to ensure the correct fixing.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Pottering in the Greenhouse in the RAIN!

It is a very grey and drearily dismal day with lots of drizzle and sulky faces around, so I thought "I know, I can pop to my Greenhouse and keep nice and dry and warm, whilst getting some seedlings planted," so off I went as fast as my little legs could carry me....

I had to start my task with a good strong cup of tea and with the radio set to Heart 106.2 I was raring to go - all energised and buzzing.....

But first some pictures - these are my sweetcorn plants......

And my Tomatoes (but can't remember which type !!)

Sweet Peas.......

And this was my task of the day - planting 3 types of courgettes & some marrows

You can see the massive sunflower plants to the back (these are 4inches already)

And the Aubergine seedlings that were in my utility but are now in their new home.

Is it the Loch Ness Monster? No - its a pea seedling, just freshly escaped from it's pod...

My onions (bedforshire) which did very well from seed last year so fingers crossed its the same this year.....

And another picture of neat and tidiness!

All in all I planted 27 new seeds today - 3 varieties of Courgettes (two yellow varieties) and some Marrows - I love marrows as I cook them to a traditional Maltese recipe that goes down very well in this household - if you want the recipe, just ask!

And finally - this is Brian and Elena - on the left - my neighbours on plot 143 and Doug, who has a plot down the bottom. They braved the elements and planted potatoes using Dougs Potato Planting pogo stick, which sadly isn't shown in this picture but looked like a great big club with small sticks sticking out of it - lethal looking thing!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Crossing the T's and dotting the I's

Today started at 11am Lotty time - I was up way before then, but had house chores to do before I was allowed out, including cooking a "cooked" breakfast of duck eggs and bacon. A good start to the day I say!

So off I went with a bag full of bits and pieces including my Roses tin (emptied at Christmas) full of seeds, come pots & hubby's ryboi drill - yes, I was going to attempt to put up the greenhouse staging that came with the purchase.

Was I mad? What was I thinking!!! I was planning a lovely and peacefull day and what did I get? An almost unladylike session of f'ings and blindings as the screws supplied were not long enough and the instructions were YES YOU'VE GUESSED IT - WRITTEN IN JAPANESE which looked like English but came across as Spanish - oh boy. So I had to screw in the screws at a diagonal, and even then, some of them didn't take 1st go, 2nd go or even 3rd go. I did however manage to get the staging together and whilst it looked solid, it rocked like a baby.

In the greenhouse it went. Out it came. In the shed it went. Out it came. Into the greenhouse again but still felt insecure, until Brian, my neighbour from 143 came along with some wire. He expertly slid the wire behind one of the GH uprights, round the leg of the staging, little twist here, another one there and bingo - it felt safer. Same again to the other leg and Hey Presto - it's more acceptable as a unit of GH staging, but not as good as the one my lovely Mother in Law gave me. Phew!

So that was the staging sorted - it only took me 2 hours! Ha Ha. Next was a nice cup of Co-op tea, made by my trusty camping stove - black one sugar - in my new mug! Do you like it? Very appropriate I thought when I saw it online. I then emailed the link to our hut manager Nigel, who immediately ordered some in for the Trading Hut. I think its fab.

After being refreshed, it was a quick trip to the lotty loo and then on to the Trading Hut for a sack of John Innes No.2 which Arthur kindly delivered straight to the doors of my GH.

Next was not putting up the clock, but more so putting a battery in it. Hubby Ian put it up yesterday whilst putting up the shelves in the shed and my shed door knocker (sorry forgot pictures of them) so I luckily for me remembered the battery today. After skillfully inserting it the right why round I then potted some herbs bought from B&Q (Corriander, Parsley, Sage & Thyme) into my herb troughs which are now alongside the GH beside the path.

It's Lotty Time!!
And finally the "Trespassers will be composted" sign was erected above the shed door. Thanks Mo for letting me copying your idea - had lots of comments so far already!

On top of that I planted some girly plants by the gate which my plot is next to, to make it look more welcoming, checked on the hops and sunflowers in cloches to make sure they were not dried out, weeded the onion, garlic & broad bean beds, planted some beetroot seeds outside as an experiement to see if they will germinate so early on, tidied up my shed which I am determined to keep neat and tidy, & watered the greenhouse seedlings.
All in all a good weekends work!

Friday, 3 April 2009

A Years hard graft

April 2008 April 2009

Thursday, 2 April 2009

What a difference a day makes....24 little hours...

Yes, it was my day of yesterday, and I got organised and myself down to the lotty at 8.30am

As you can see from the first picture, all my little lovely seedlings are going to their new home - my GH

I was a very lucky girl yesterday and the COSMOS must have been looking after me, because I bumped straight into Derek our Lotty Fairy, and without allowing me to say NO he started to dig for me.

He dug and I de-rooted and de-stoned and look at this whopper! (not of the Burger King variety)

After a few hours hard work, and a couple of sore backs.....
I was able to plant pototaes, 2 rows of red onions, 2 of white, Autumn King Carrots and Parsnips!
These are my potatoes - Accent 1st earlies going in. I also planted my 2nd's Kestral and few Charlottes which I got given. I also measured out the space needed for my Maincrop so all my potatoes are together (planning in advance due to next years crop rotation you see!)

As you can see, I didn't dig long and labourious trenches, I simply used my bulb planter and popped them in. This was the tried and tested method that I used last year, which worked well and it's also mentioned in John Harrisons latest book - The Essential Allotment Guide - so it must be a good way to grow spuds!

Now this is my plot last year - April 2008

And this is my plot in April 2009!

It was the plot that no one else wanted - the overgrow, rubbish strewn plot by the fence that was anyones allotment nightmare - but not mine!

I even had time to organise the shed a little more! Please note the loo roll haha, just in case I need to use the toilet provided on site - lucky I was a Girl Guide in my youth as it's quite a challenge I can tell you!

That's it for today's report - hope you enjoyed reading it and the transformation taking place - there will be more to come as I have a wine an beer patio lounge planned next!