Monday, June 29

You wait for ages and them they all come at once.

Our early brassica patch is now in full flow.

 Part of the first calabrese head of the week was eaten raw with a salad.
The strawberries are providing us with steady pickings. The new plants are now bulking up well but I do wish they would steady up on runner production. I don't want them to expend energy on producing babies and so it's almost a full time job trimming them.
The first planted bed is netted but this is just a temporary job until we can manage a more permanent solution. The second bed isn't yet producing and so this will be covered shortly.

The strawberry harvest is supplemented by a few alpine strawberries but these are not yet in full production mode either.

The early cabbages are starting to split and are producing faster than we can eat them. Some will be frozen and some shared with my sister. We could make sauerkraut as Daphne did but neither of us like it.
Blackbirds creating a fuss and doing their utmost to get into the 'cage' covering the redcurrants was a sure sign that the fruit was ripening. I picked a few but the 'strings' are not yet fully ripened so there is no rush to pick them.
Ripe redcurrants hang on the bush for quite a while - much to the blackbirds frustration. Blackcurrants on the other hand tend to drop off when fully ripe and so I need to keep on top of the picking. 

The first batch was from a variety called Ebony and our second picking was from Ebony and Ben Connan

These are not netted as on our plot the birds show only fleeting interest and the few they steal doesn't warrant any protection. Picking blackcurrants is a tedious job and so the relaxing effect of the lavender perfume which is released as I brush against the plants bordering the fruity beds is a bonus.

There was also plenty of sweet Williams to pick.

As we use items from the salad bar I keep replanting and as usual we have a ready available supply of fresh herbs.
Last week we also had a couple of harvests from the garden greenhouse

Martyn's experiment at getting early tomatoes yielded one small fruit which in fairness had been ripe for a while but kept being overlooked.I've saved the best 'till last. If you read either of our blogs earlier in the week you will know that we picked our first ever  home grown apricots. We only had two fruits but then again the tree produced very few flowers and I had to play at being a bee.

Friday, June 26

Who needs a gardener?

Back in October I took this photograph of the pear bed on the allotment.
To many this would look like a neglected bed about to be over-run by weeds.

In January it looked very similar.

Now the bed  looks like this.
Without any help from me the bed has turned into a sea of white and lilac.
Millions of self sown candytuft seeds have jostled for power with the strongest producing a carpet of flowers.

Although I had to pull out a handful if weeds for the most part the dense covering of seedlings kept the weeds at bay.
Again with no help from me, tulips and later poppies muscled their way through.
Later my only part in this performance will be to clear away the dead stems and shake out the seeds for the whole process to be repeated next year.

Elsewhere on the  plot are self sown foxgloves.
With these self sowers I have a slightly larger role as I move any young plants growing in unsuitable places to more appropriate spots.
This year I am trying to raise some digitalis alba from seed and they seem reluctant to germinate and yet they will germinate in the roughest of places on the plot.
I can't help but be amazed that a dust-like seed that germinates into a tiny seedling, not only survives but grows into such a stately plant.
Then there are the self sufficient plants in the garden that install themselves in the most unlikely of places.

Verbena bonariensis has established itself in gaps between the paving blocks under the front window.

Close by using the same trick a hardy geranium has installed itself by the front doorstep.
In the back garden plants appear from nowhere. A clump of white aquilegias have colonised the base of the trachycarpus. Not only is the 'ground' here  solid but no aquilegias have ever grown anywhere near and I have never had any white ones in the garden.

It isn't a place where I would have thought to plant aquilegias but they happily come up every year and it works so I leave them to get on with it. 

Then there was this little poppy that seemed to instinctively know to pop up in the new yellow and red border where it would be allowed to stay.
Some plants arrive in the wrong place but just have to be allowed to stay - like this daphne which over the years has grown into a beautiful shrub.
I could go on to describe many more examples of nature taking control. I don't think we gardeners are redundant just yet but sometimes nature does do things better.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments 
author S Garrett

Wednesday, June 24

Allium - Christophii

 Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Tuesday, June 23

Two halves of the same fruit

We have been in a quandary - should we - shouldn't we?

With only two apricots on the tree we didn't want to pick too soon but there again we didn't want to leave it too late. 

In the end the tree decided for us and discarded one of the fruits.
Luckily this much anticipated event occurred when Martyn was in the greenhouse and so in a matter of minutes, after a photoshoot, the fruit was cut in half and shared.
It was delicious.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, June 22

More firsts

Things are growing very slowly on the plot this year, so slowly that many things are having difficulty outpacing the slugs. Things are being eaten faster than they can grow. Joining the carrot seedlings on the casualty list are the newly planted climbing beans, many brassica, courgette and squash plants. We've also lost the second sowing of carrots to the slimy menaces but bizarrely they have ignored the lettuces.

For this reason any harvests are going to be the source of celebration. Last week saw our first general harvest. 

Previously we have picked odds and ends of salad crops and herbs but this week we have some firsts.

Sweet Williams are now flowering and providing long lasting cut flowers. I also added a few candytuft to the vase.
On the plot we also grow some shrub roses chosen for perfume. I added some sprigs of alchemilla to the arrangement. The roses are ideal for adding perfume to the bathroom. The single yellow and white roses opened quickly so I was surprised by how long they are lasting.

We cut our first cabbage of the season.
The variety is Duncan which was one of a collection of plug plants bought from Marshalls. We usually grow brassicas from seed but find this collection gets us off to an earlier start. It's more expensive than growing from seed but provides a good fall back if you forget to sow seed or if slugs etc. devastate young plants. Martyn discussed the pros and cons of using plug plants in a post last year.

Another first
I know that I have gone on and on about pulling rhubarb but these are the first harvest from the variety Raspberry Red. Like Crimson Grooveless it keeps it's red colouring and it doesn't seem to 'break down' as much when cooked.

We have just bought some roots of another rhubarb variety called Poultons Pride which is reputed to harvest for 10 months of the year,
Our next first is a harvest that everyone awaits with eager anticipation - the first strawberries.
In the dish the variety is Fenella, on the left is Vibrant and the lone strawberry on the right is an unknown variety from an old overspill bed that was destined for removal until  we noticed that the plants had produced lots of fruit so it was granted a stay of execution
We continue to pick fresh herbs and salad from the salad bar which now needs replenishing. Having this bed in the garden was a good move.

At the weekend we brought home a second harvest.

More rhubarb, this time Crimson Grooveless, and a second cabbage along with our first calabrese head. The calabrese - Marathon was like the cabbage included in the plug plant collection bought from Marshalls. 

The strawberries are in separate punnets to keep the different varieties apart. We picked a few more Fenella and Vibrant. The other varieties were, Cambridge Favourite and Royal Sovereign. We also picked the first alpine strawberries of the year. I've just noticed that the photo makes the strawberries look less ripe than they actually were.

Although the flowers picked earlier in the week were still looking good, I couldn't resist picking more.

Friday, June 19

Where there's muck there may be a problem.

Back in 2008 several of us on our allotment site noticed strange growth primarily affecting potato and tomato plants. Everyone affected had used manure from the same source and it soon became apparent that across the country other gardeners were experiencing the same problem. The use of a hormonal weedkiller being used on grazing land was identified as the cause of the problem. As a result I started to gather together as much information as I could about the problem and people affected and added a section on my website where I published everything that I found out. Basically the problem was that the active ingredient - aminopyralid - remains active for an incredible length of time. It is trapped in the plant material until decomposition occurs when it is the released as a still active chemical. If you want to read more you can do so  on my website here.
Last week I had an email from Neil Edinburgh that - with Neil's permission - I want to share as a warning that it is still important to take care when sourcing manure. 

Neil wrote, "Just thought you might be interested to hear that I have been the victim of contaminated manure this year.  The manure was collected from a local stables in April, and used as part of my compost mix for spuds in potato bags and barrels.  Also I used it in a hanging basket for tomatoes.  Broad beans planted near some onions where I dug some manure in are also showing the affects of poisoning, though the onions themselves seem unaffected.  

All the affected crops have been pulled out, apart from one potato barrel, which I have left as a test case, to see if they recover.

Very annoying, I'm just glad I discovered it was contaminated before adding any more to my plot... two beds I have dug it into were meant for my courgettes, but I think i will grow them elsewhere.  I may try growing squashes in these beds as I'm not so bothered about them.

I have collected manure from these stables for the last 3 years and never had a problem until this year".

Neil also provide the photos in this post.
Aminopyraliod is the active ingredient in two hormonal weedkillers - Forefront - used in agriculture. Conditions governing their use should prevent any manure containing aminopyralid from being supplied for use in horticulture, however clearly in some cases contaminated manure is still getting through. The problem is that the contamination can enter the supply chain at various points and the end supplier may be unaware if its use further up the chain.

Possible entry points are:

  • Fields sprayed where animals graze.
  • Fields sprayed and grass used for silage, herbage or hay for feed or bedding.
  • Contaminated ingredients being used in commercial feed such as pony nuts.
  • Contaminated material being used in composts
It is also important to know that stacking manure even for several years will not remove the contamination.
Broad bean
Related to this another of the active ingredient in Verdone ,a readily available lawn preparation, is clopyralid. This behaves in a similar way to aminopyralid. Instructions for use state that clippings from lawns treated should not be composted. 

"The first mowing after application must not be used as a mulch, either fresh or after composting since it may damage desired plants. Dispose of via normal household waste. Do not dispose of via council composting schemes.
The next three mowings should be used as a mulch only after composting well for at least 9 months." 

If the instruction are ignored and clippings they are put into green waste bins does the contaminated material end up in compost either supplied by councils or used in commercial composts that use green waste as an ingredient? The usual decontamination process will not 'kill' or remove the active ingredient. We can only hope that users not only read but actually follow the instructions.

If you do have problems with composts especially if your plant show any features of hormonal weedkiller damage then let the manufacturers know. What with the army of pests and diseases and the weather we have enough to cope with and deserve to be supplied with decent compost.