Sunday, June 27

Red - the colour of the moment!

We spent most of yesterday afternoon picking fruit - there are still lots and lots of redcurrants to gather but after a while you need a break from having fingers that stick to anything that you touch.

I sat on a little three legged stool under the netting and hardly moved to pick three punnets or 1.87kg. Maybe we will even leave some for the blackbirds when we have harvested enough. Only a tasting of blackcurrants but the bushes were newly planted this year and so that was to be expected.

I picked this cute little berry earlier in the week and so far it has avoided being eaten.

So red is the colour this weekend. If you are listening Mr. Capello - put your team in red and they will win 6 - 0!

Tuesday, June 22

Do blackbirds carry scissors?

When we arrived at the plot today TWO blackbirds had managed to get into the netting protecting the redcurrants. I checked the entire netting yesterday and was sure it was bird-proof after I had repaired a hole that had mysteriously appeared but lo and behold today another hole had appeared just above the one repaired yesterday - a large hole too! So today that has been repared - this time using chicken wire. That should blunt their little scissors!!

We also picked another punnet of strawberries and emptied another bag of potatoes.

Everything is starting to look really good so I took loads ... and loads ... and loads of photographs. These can be viewd in my latest album by clicking here - that is if you have an hour or two to spare!

Here's a taster:

My latest diary entry for last week is here

Monday, June 21

Little and Large

Like many other bloggers we had our first 'real' picking of strawberries this week. Some teased me by showing their bright red side only to be pale and unripe on the underside but we still had plenty to fill a punnet. The alpine strawberries are also producing and should continue until the first frosts. Both were delicious.
Redcurrants are just about ready to start picking - in spite of netting them and scrutinising the 'cage' for any bird entry points - the blackbirds still seem to be finding a way in to steal some. I think they must have a tunnel - when we are at the plot they sit complaining at us!
The new quince has produced a few fruits which I should no doubt have snapped off but I can never bring myself to do that. New pears have one or two fruits too. It may mean less of a crop next year but then again we don't need a massive crop.

The cranberries pose a bit of a conundrum. We have two identical plants in identical pots, compost and positions. One is covered with flowers and the other has none - fickle or what?

Our first kiwi flower has opened (see here) the only problem is that I am sure we bought two plants as they needed to cross pollinate and only one plant is flowering - can anyone send me an envelope full of kiwi pollen?

Still on the subject of fruits, I noticed a bit of woolly aphid on the apple trees so i guess today I will have to wield a toothbrush - a yukky job but someone has to do it!

Saturday, June 19

I don't trust show gardens.

A while ago we went to the Gardeners' World Live show at the NEC. There, the popular new plant which was growing as a small bedding plant in most of the gardens was sambucus nigra - Black Lace. We were so taken by it that we bought one even though it was quite expensive for a small plant. We planted it in a border in the garden where it grew and grew.

I chopped it down almost to the ground each year but the next season it shot up to an even larger size - also chopping it down seemed to prevent it from producing the lovely pink flowers that I had been promised. Growth rate is described by sellers as average so I wouldn't want to buy something fast growing. When I cut the bush back I took a few cuttings - just to see if I could and it was easy - most rooted and grew. I gave some plants to friends and planted some on the edge of our allotment plot.

This year the one in the garden had to be removed as it grew far too large for its allotted spot but the ones on the plot look fantastic and have attracted all sorts of compliments - everyone wants one!

It is a beautiful plant but the GWL show really misrepresented it. I really have gone off show gardens big time as usually there is no way you can take ideas from them to use in your garden. Things are forced to flower at the same time which wouldn't normally. This produces a beautiful border which you can never achieve using the same plants. Plants are also used or planted in positions that they are unsuitable for as the show garden only has to look good for a few days whereas our gardens hopefully have a much longer life.

Still the Black Lace is a beautiful plant - I just need somewhere in the garden where it can grow now so I can bring a cutting back - another question - if it is so easy to grow from cuttings and grows so quickly why is it expensive to buy?

Friday, June 18

Press release from DOW Agrochemicals

Reintroduction of aminopyralid products will not lead to more manure problems
Aminopyralid herbicides have been re-introduced this year to help grassland farmers deal with difficult to control weeds but with tight controls to prevent problems with manure management.
Aminopyralid herbicides are the most effective solutions to control dock, thistle, nettle, and buttercup infestations in grassland. To ensure that their use does not lead to a repeat of the issues seen previously, their availability is now tightly controlled with a significantly amended label and a stewardship scheme which ensures farmers are aware of the implications for subsequent manure management. The herbicides cannot be used on grassland destined for hay and silage nor on grassland grazed by horses. This year sales are restricted to Scotland, South West England and Northern Ireland.
There have been some incidents this year of manure containing aminopyralid ending up on gardens and allotments.
“This is disappointing and upsetting for those affected,” said Dow AgroSciences principal biologist Andy Bailey. “Although of small comfort, we would reassure anyone affected that this manure has not come from use this season under the new controls. It is a reflection of manure generated from past treatment and kept in heaps for more than a year. Also, the past long winter means old stocks of forage will have been consumed on livestock farms.”
The new restriction in aminopyralid use will mean any manure returns immediately to pasture where it will cause no harm and cannot leave the farm. The stringent use restrictions are explained in detail to every professional farmer who wants to buy a product and a written confirmation of understanding must be completed.
Dow AgroSciences’ advice to concerned farmers or gardeners remains the same – to check carefully the provenance of any manure being used where sensitive crops, such as potatoes, peas, beans and carrots, may be grown.
“If anyone supplying manure cannot state with certainty that no aminopyralid-based product (sold as Forefront, Pharaoh or Banish) was used on the forage from which the manure resulted, then it is best not to accept any supply,” says Mr Bailey. “For anyone who has manure and is concerned, please contact us through our dedicated website .This site also contains detailed information and frequently asked questions for gardeners, horse owners and professional grassland farmers.”

People who have reported problems to my website are listed here if you want to be added email me

Monday, June 14

June blows hot and cold

June definitely seems to have a split personality. It can't decide whether to blow hot or cold. It seems to enjoy teasing us - one minute it is lovely and sunny and the next cold and wet. It must be even more confusing for plants and animals. Long daylight hours should mean summer!

This week it has certainly had us dashing in and out of doors. We still have plenty of plants in the cold frame waiting to be planted out in the garden or on the plot.

The main plot activity has been to plant out runner beans and to uncover the dahlias.

In the greenhouses the main activity has been the final planting out of our tomato plants.

The Glencoe raspberry that we planted last year looks as though it is going to have plenty of berries.

This is just one plant - it forms a vigorous clump and so is probably best in an allotment. It's supposed to produce a high yield of delicious dark purple raspberries. Although it seems expensive compared to the more usual raspberries - you only need one plant! It should ripen mid July so I'll let you know what it tastes like.

Redcurrants are beginning to ripen and are no doubt being monitored by eager blackbirds so the netting will need to soon come out of storage.

To read more of my latest entry in my June diary click here

To read more about last week's crazy weather click here

Sunday, June 13

Request for help at Horbury Fayre

The Home Grown Horbury stall for Horbury Fayre is in the process of being finalised and the Home Grown Horbury group are running a "Spot the growing plot" competition to get people thinking about the plots of unused land around Horbury and Ossett that could be used to grow fruit and vegetables.

Competition entrants can win one of two beginner’s growing kits that have been put together by the group. They have also have various leaflets bookmarks etc to give away.

The Fayre takes place next weekend - Saturday 19th from 9am ‘til 5pm and Sunday 20th June from 10am to 5pm.

The group could do with some help in running the stall and giving out leaflets etc. If anyone can spare an hour or two to help, please email Andy or ring 07971 098510.

Bonus Birds

Well we may not have large numbers of birds to add to our RSPB bird count submission but we have had two species of fledglings that we are asked to specially count - the blackbird and the robin.

We didn't manage a photo of the young blackbird but did manage a long shot of the baby robin. The blackbird was still being tended by dad but the robin was going it alone!

It still had the pouting look of a young bird.

Saturday, June 12

Some like it wet!

This fungus seems to fruit every year - it grows through a hole in the centre of a slice of tree trunk that we have on our plot. I guess you are wondering what a slice of tree trunk is doing there? Well it's one of our attempts at providing a range of habitats for minibeast but it seems to also be much loved by fungi!

Anyone any idea what sort of fungus it is? It seems the rain this week has caused it to suddenly appear.

Last year we bought a kit for growing oyster mushrooms. Short pieces of dowel were impregnated with spore which had to be placed in holes drilled into a freshly cut log (probably the hardest bit was finding a freshly cut log!) This is now propped against our magnolia tree.

It's been like that about a year with no sign of any mushrooms yet! There is a bit of furry white stuff growing round the dowels pieces.

It is only a tiny bit but could it be the start of a crop of oyster mushrooms - I do hope so!

Tuesday, June 8

June growth spurt?

June sees plants in both plot and garden putting on a growth spurt. The spell of good weather - will it come back ? made us speed up the action too - planting, weeding and watering.

We planted two varieties of sweet corn Sweet Nugget & Tasty Gold. As the plants are wind pollinated both were planted on blocks and to avoid cross pollination also planted in separate areas of the plot.

We have also started to plant out tomato plants in the plot greenhouse using a makeshift ring culture method.

For my full diary entry for the first week in June click here
To view the accompanying photo album click here

Monday, June 7

State of play at the end of May!

A bit late with the video of our plot for May so it's here as well as on the May diary page of my website.

Sunday, June 6

Lots of twitterings

We may not be seeing many birds in our garden at the moment but are hearing plenty of twitterings from fledglings.

One little blue tit calling for its mum or dad was on the path by our garage.

I think he/she had newly emerged from its nest and felt a little abandoned.
I was a bit worried that it was on the ground and particularly vulnerable.

It did have a go at climbing up our garrage wall so its instincts to get higher were kicking in - but the garage is a high rock face for a little bird and I was very tempted to go a help lift it up into a bush. I realised that this wasn't the best thing to do when a parent bird popped down to feed it.

So we went off to the allotment and when we came back it had gone - hopefully to a safer place.

The photos are fuzzy if you try and view them at a larger size as I had to take them from quite a distance and I don't have one of those super-duper huge lenses and no time for a tripod!

Martyn managed to shoot a short piece of video whilst I tried my best to get some stills

By the way the RSPB are organising a nature count this week see here. Our list will be short unless we can count hearing the birds sing in the trees. I wish I was better at identifying birdsong as we have been hearing some very different 'tunes' and they are not starlings pretending to be car alarms or mobile phones!

Friday, June 4

Incredible, Edible Wakefield

The Incredible, Edible Wakefield website has been set up to inspire and bring together anyone in Wakefield and the surrounding areas who has had enough of feeling powerless and wants to get involved in ideas and projects designed to help create more vibrant and resilient communities.  Their aim is to share ways that everyone can make a difference by coming together to increase the amount of healthy, local food, grown and eaten in and around the Wakefield area and in so doing reduce reliance on supermarkets and big business and help strengthen and support local communities.

One section of the website is devoted to allotments and offers some alternative suggestions to those who have been put off by the waiting lists for allotments but are still keen to have a go at growing on a decent size plot.

One of their campaigns is to encourage the council set up Community Growing locations in the Wakefield District and they have put together an on-line petition gathering together signatures that back the idea.

A group has also been set up called Home Grown Horbury who are working with the council to trial the community growing licences scheme in Wakefield. They have put together proposals for a community growing scheme for Horbury that could be used to provide opportunities for the local community to be actively involved in producing their own food. The scheme would include everything from crop planning, through the various stages of growing, right to the eventual harvesting and distribution of the produce and would also provide learning opportunities for local people to develop growing skills that could be taken on and used in the wider community.

Anyone interested in getting involved can make contact see here or join the Google group set up especially to support this project.

Wednesday, June 2

I wonder what June will bring?

May has been a strange month weatherwise - see our May weather summary here. More weather details are available on our weather blog here

Dry conditions mean watering has been a major task all month but no amount of watering is as good as a good dowsing with rain. Crops such as peas that need plenty of moisture are growing much slower than normal which means that pea weevils are having a much greater effect on the young plants.

Weeds have been removed from around the growing peas so that at least they don't have competition from any moisture that is available.

A couple of aquilegias that I planted in the new flower bed  have spilt personailities. Each has two distinct types of flower. The two types of flowers are different colours and grow to differing heights. So I seem to have ended up with four plants for the price of two. The problem is do I split them now whilst I can see what is what? Or do I wait?
One advantage of the dry conditions is that the slugs are less active and so the hostas are for now being left alone. Some are in pots with vaseline smeared  and copper ribbon wrapped around them. They also stand in saucers which usually have water in them and they are kept away from any other plants from which persistent slugs can abseil. Others are more vulnerable and will no doubt be attacked before the season is out so I'll just have to enjoy them while I can.

The complete diary entry for last week is now on the website here although we haven't managed to upload a video clip yet.

Tuesday, June 1

Manure is still causing problems!

I had four emails last week from people affected after using what they suspect was manure contaminated  with hormonal herbicide. Both obtained manure that was produced prior to the new stewardship being put in place. This emphasises the need to continue to be cautious when obtaining manure. Where manure has been stacked the problem will persist. Stacking has NO effect on the contamination - it will NOT go away. The herbicide is only broken down when in contact with soil bacteria.

If you are thinking of obtaining manure please read the advice here to try and avoid becoming another victim.

If you suspect that you are a victim there is advice here

Also please email me so that you can be added to the 2010 victims list - in this way we can monitor the problem.

Another point is that another herbicide clopyralid is in a lawn preparation - Verdone+. This is available to amateur gardeners. Instructions do warn that after cutting grass, which has been treated with this chemical, that grass clippings should not be composted - you shouldn't put lawn clippings into council green waste bins either as if this material is used in compost it can caused similar problems to aminopyralid

Just to add please also inform the CRD and DOW giving them information about the problem as they are monitoring the effectiveness of the new stewardship.