Sunday, 24 May 2009

Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

The allotment weekend for me started on Friday lunchtime, when I sneaked down to the plots with my very first Gnome who I called "Potty."
I bought Potty because of my disgust at hearing and reading that the Royal Horticultural Society have banned Gnomes from the Chelsea Flower Show.
Gomes are lovely little things and a feature in many a British Gardeners borders.

They brighten up a garden even on the dreariest and most gloomy of days, so I decided to protest and buy one of my own - he could be one of many more to come and is proudly guarding my shed and greenhouse. I have even started a gnome revolutionary front on Twitter - if you would like to join in my Twibe go to

Now to the hard work - Friday lunchtime was spent - yes - you've guessed it - weeding! The little buggers grow as fast as you can blink, and just as you thought you have hoe'd them all, more appear in thier place - it's not fair, as if a girl hasn't already got enought to do!!!

At least that was another job done - on top of watering the entire plot and the greenhouse, but I was ready, or better prepared for the weekend ahead now.

Saturday - I had Trading Hut duties to fulfill as Nigel asked me to cover because the volunteer already down for that morning was called away work wise, so I arrived at around 9am and popped into the sauna - oops, sorry I menat Greenhouse! Boy was it steaming in there. Although the auto vent was open I fully opened the louvre windows and left the door open wide to bring the temperature down. I also soaked the matting crossed my fingers that it did the trick.

I then did a mental inventory take of all the plants inside and decided what was going to brave the big wide open plot outside and what would stay put.

The Cherry Tomatoes that I have put into whale pots had grown so large, I hadn't realised that they tips were now touching the staging from below! So into the ground they went, alongside the Aubergines that were planted out last weekend.

I then got to work on earthing up my potatoes (again) as they have grown rather splendidly!

More weeding in bed 1 - the onion and garlic bed. I now have an onion hoe which is a godsend....

Looking good!

Now to Sunday and plot 121.

I bought copious amounts of manure, well 8 80 litre bags to be precise, so that's alot of poo, at great expense - I meant bargain price including delivery by the lovel Arthur, from the trading hut, and Nigel kindly filled the two raised beds built by my the same Nigel last weekend......

Bed one I filled with my 18 Strawberry plants purchased from a nearby nursery - well actually I bought 20 but there was only room for 18 so 2 went to plot 144 later on that same day. I was advised to cover the beds with black sheeting, which fortunately I had already and fitted the job perfectly, so that went on top of the manure and then a diagonal was cut at various carefully measured (luckily the black sheeting had large squares marked on it already!) out places and the strawberry plants went in. Some of them already had large green strawberries on them so I had to be careful.

Topped with a mulch mat & netting also, I can't fail!

Now to continue on 121. I raked, raked and raked some more. I created 2 beds just in front of each of the raised beds.

I then went back on forth from 121 to 144 for tools, spade & fork, then I realised I needed this that and the other, so about 5 trips, with a loo stop and a cup of coffee later, and I had everything I needed - including some plants!

So in went some butternut squashes, some All Green Bush courgettes and a couple of Marrows.

I then dug each plant a large hole. This hole was filled with poo, oh sorry, manure, and popped in a plant.

Eh Voila! Plot 121 is begining to look "officially" like a plot at last

After getting back all my bits and bobs to 144 and I quick trip home, I returned to the plot to put in my final Tomato Roma's which I have companion planted with some French Marigolds.

All this planting out has meant that the greenhouse is looking a little "empty" which is quite sad, but it also means that I can now pot on my cucumbers and one of my aubergines which is going to stay greenhouse bound.

OH!! I nearly forgot to mention - after going home for an hour to relax and refresh myself, I returned to the plot (144) to harvest my first salad. This consisted of Salad leaves, mizuna, rocket, some coriander leaves and some freshly picked radishes - with a home made dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar with garlic & a leg of roast chicken, we had a feast!

Our first allotment dinner of the year.

It's already Monday now, and I have just heard the weather report - 27 degrees today with hot sunshine from around 9am to 4pm when the thunderstorms arrive.

I better get down to the plot and make sure the greenhouse is all watered well if it's going to be that hot later!!!!!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Potting in the Rain - Dodging the Rain

Plot 144

Today was a rain dodging day, so I started with pottering around here and there and everywhere.....

So in no particulare order - these are my parsnips which are now thinned to 15cm or 6 inches. It seemed such a shame throwing baby miniture parsnips away, but that's the rules - they have to be thinned.

Under the cloches are the outside (for obvious reasons) Aubergines - the others will stay in the Greenhouse to see which does best!

After another dash to the Greenhouse for cover, I put some more planks down and decided to put out a couple of courgette plants. However I forget now which ones they are but think they are "Green Bush" but I could be wrong. As you can see they are by the Sweetcorn which was getting more of a battering in the wind!

Just behind the Twirly are 3 tomato plants that Sicilian Sam gave me yesterday, so I added two of my own today. The ones I grew are "Roma" and I have 4 in the green house and now 2 outside - it will be interesting to compare the results.

I bought some lettuce slug resistant barriers today and put my iceburg lettuce plants under their protection - Arthur (who incidently gave me the lettuces) swear by them. At £9 for six they are not cheap but should last a lifetime.
p.s. I did water them well after I took the picture! (just in case you were wondering)

I put in the next lot of peas and then the first lot of Mange Tout. So the peas are in the background and the mange tout in the foreground of the picture. I immediately re used the trays where the seedlings were growing and planted some more in the Greenhouse so that will be the 3rd lot of peas on the go and the 2nd of mange tout.

So all in all and 3 trips there and back, quite alot achieved really considering the rain kept threatening all the time. At one stage the sun was hot and warm and very soothing, then 2 minutes later, the black clouds came, it went cold and I dashed for the warmth of the Greenhouse. One thing I did notice today though was how warm the soil was when I was planting things out - it was lovely to stick your hand into the earth and feel the natural warmth that was there.
Plot 121 - nothing to report - sorry - rain has stopped play & there is no shelter down that end of the site for me e.g. no shed to hide in or no-ones greenhouse to run for

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Going Potty (or potting on....)

Going Potty was my project of the morning, so up at 6.30, got hubby tea and toast - him out the door to work and me having my breakfast in front of the computer checking emails and twitting!

7.30 - I left for the lotty with the intention of potting on my Cherry Toms x 4 and Strawberry plants x 1o - so off I went on my trusty bike - pedalling away to beat the rain there and back.

So to start with, I potted the Cherry Toms into whale pots as my Tomato Roma's are doing so very well in the whale pots - why not use them again!

In the excellent (haha) photo below, you can see the difference in pot size.

And here is one of the 4 Cherry Tomatoes that I prepared earlier (in true Blue Peter style!)

See not only was I a girl guide, but a Blue Peter fan too - there was no stopping me in those days, and come to think of it - not much has changed!!

Next, the Strawberries.

You see, the reasoning behind this is that (a) I bought my plants a little early from the Garden Centre and (b) the rain has stopped play with the raised beds on 121, so potting on is my solution - it may not be the answer, but the fibre pots will hopefully assist in no root disturbance later on, when they go out into the big wide world, oops sorry I meant the big raised bed on Plot 121 (probably the same thing to a Strawberry plant really!!)

So, I prepared the pots (10 of them) into a tray so they can be easily moved around if needed...

I then added a used tea bag to the bottom of each pot to assist with moisture (a tip from Gardeners World TV programme) I knew there was a reason why I watched that!

I then added a little compost

And potted on the plants.....

Not a great photo as it was taken by my phone - but you can see I have green strawberries already! Wow!
That's my one that is - can't wait!!
The aim is to grow them (obviously) with lots of love and TLC and then eat them all before I get home - lucky I have some sugar in my shed (girl guiding comes in handy - be prepared and all that dib dib dib)
Just made it home for 9am in time to start work
(just in case the boss is reading this)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

How to make a Bee Box for your Plot!

A Twitter Friend called Damian who is campaigning to save the Bee's of Britain has just posted this great link on Twitter!

As it's a fantastic way to encourage bees to your Allotment Plot or Garden I thought I should share the goodness and post this on my blog.

Help Save the Bees by making your own bee home OR you can purchase one from your local garden centre like I did

More information from the Bumble Bee Chronicle

Monday, 11 May 2009

Raking from A to Z

If there is anything you need to know about raking couch grass out of rotavated soil, then ask me and my two blisters!

However I will start this blog post from the beginning and end at the end, as all good authors should do (not that I am a good author, but aspiring to be one?)
So, Saturday morning and I was asked to swap my Trading Hut duties with John as he was off somewhere nice, which was not a problem for me as my lovely hubby had to go to the office that morning anyways. However & as usual, I arrived early, watered the greenhouse and started the never ending weeding (again).

Plot 144

I weeded around the earthed up potatoes and along the back where the sunflowers and hops plants are doing well - plus I remembered to take a picture of my toad house, which is still vacant, so any homeless frogs or toads are welcome. So I now have a toad home a bee house and a ladybug place too. There is also a bowl of fresh water outside my Greenhouse for any passing bees, dogs, cats, birds etc.
Weeding then continued in what I am calling my "salad" bed as I need to prepare the soil here for the tomatoes that are going to be the lucky winners of a fantastic prize!

Yes - a summer outside of the greenhouse and in a raised bed. Not any old raised bed you know! This one has been specially selected for their comfort and care.

OK so Daisy the scarecrow looks a little tipsy and the ladybird house like the leaning tower of Pisa, but I am sure that it will all be tikety boo by the time the tomatoes are due. I have Roma and Cherry. The plan is to raise half of each variety inside the greenhouse and half in the raised beds so I have a 50-50 chance of getting a decent crop.

After shop duties, I planted the iceburg lettuces that Arthur kindly left in my greenhouse for me last week. They are good sturdy plants and will be welcome on my plate in the summer months.

I didn't really grow lettuces last year, apart from the cut and come again variety, so this will make a nice change.

And last but not least from 144 is a picture of my sweetcorn soldiers, that I am very proud to say are doing absolutely fabulous!

Now to plot 121 - this is where the hard work took place. Sunday morning - Nigel was in the shop, so he let me the rake and said "Oh you just need to rake as much of the couch grass roots out of the soil as you can,"

So I set to work.


I raked here and I raked there. I raked the length of the plot and then the width and back again.

I heard my name being called "Ali" and there was that good old signal being given to me that the kettle was on, so I went for a cuppa.

This is Arthur who is a godsend to the Trading Hut - he must barrow 50 to 60 bags of compost, manure and other things around the plot to satisfied customers nearly all weekend. He's getting a little sparkle in his eye now - and bossy with it sometimes too!

This is Ron (Hut Manager) and Derek (lotty hero) enjoying their cuppa tea.

Nigel kindly said that he would make me some raised beds from scaffolding boards - how was a girl to refuse an offer like that!

So here are the pictures of the beds being made, taken across to the newly raked plot, put into position (finally after a lot of umming and ahhing) and painted up.

121 will be proper up and running next weekend I reckon - see a bit of blood and sweat, a helping hand, alot of time and you can do it - Couch grass to resembling a plot in just over a week!

Constructing the beds outside the trading hut

Deciding where they are to go!

Being painted pink (remember - green is the new pink)

All painted up and in position - ready to be sunk in before filling with compost and manure

My asparagus and strawberries can't wait!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Photo update from the Bank Holiday Weekend

Plot 144
The baby Asparagus grown from seed - its so tiny!

The rest of the Asparagus grown from seed

The Red Onions standing to attention!

My first marrow plant to be sent out side of the Green House and into the cloche

The 1st and 2nd Earlies - both need earthing up again!!

Plot 121
As you can see, great progress was made after a few hours from both me and Nigel on plot 121.

It was hot work moving "piles" of grass from one area to another to prepare for the plot to be rotavated, but we got there in the end.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The Wine & Cider Patio begins to take shape!

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning here in Carshalton in Surrey, so what better way to spend the morning than at the allotment. My lovely hubby also decided that it was about time that my pile of paving slabs, acquired on freecycle some time back, were put to the use they were acquired for - indeed! Good thinking that man.
He therefore decided to accompany me and get the Wine & Cider (I don't do beer or lager unless it's Gluten Free) Patio underway.
First came the preparation - chiselling off the old cement bits.

Then came the laying of the black sheeting which was copied from my fellow committee memeber and allotmenteer John Bresman, as he is a strong believer in too much concrete is not good on an allotment site. So the idea is to level off the soil underfoot, lay the sheeting to surpress the weeds and then the patio slabs (a lovely shade of pink - pink being the new green and visa versa) go on top of that.
So here in the picture below you can see the careful precision with which the sheeting was laid outside my greenhouse (or is that pinkhouse??)
This continued to along side and in front of the shed (which is painted green - that's the new pink - confused - you soon could be)
And the first pink (green or is that really pink) patio slab is laid.

Whilst hubby was busy with his project, I thought it best to keep out of the way and hoe the weeds which I seem to be growing very well and alot of.
Unfortunately my plot (144) has been cursed with Bindweed, and there are still a few baby brambles popping their heads up for good luck.
I try to carefully dig around them and pull as much of the little blighters out and once I have de weeded, de brambled and de bindweeded the whole plot - I start all over again!
What joy.
Now for news on 122. After serving my time in the Trading Hut that morning - I was on duty with my new partner Nigel from 11am to 1pm, I quickly nipped home for a spot of lunch - cold chicken drumsticks left over from the night before. I was back with 3/4 of an hour and got to work raking and re piling up the already piled and parted burnt pile to another location as the plot is to be rotavated in the week.
So in a pair of shorts, in the hope of getting a little colour to my now ghostly white legs, my muck boot gardening clogs and with my rake (not grass rake unfortunately) and fork, I got to work.
15 minutes later, the cavalry arrived in the form of Nigel and his "chopper" I had to giggle when he said "I'm just going to get my "chopper," childish I know but I couldn't help it!
So Nigel got chopping and I continued to rake.
After an hour, we decided enough was enough as it was very hot, so off we went to the Trading Hut, put the kettle on and enjoyed a coffee sitting on the scaffolding boards that had arrived, enjoying the sunshine.
We sat their putting the world to rights for 20 minutes or so, and then I toodled off back to 144 for some more weeding and greenhouse potting on.
(pictures to follow tomorrow)