Monday, May 22

Mini Harvest

At the moment our harvests are on the small side. They are so small that I haven't really taken photographs of the actual harvests. 

The salad bed/box in the garden is now producing salad leaves that can be cut as required. The leaves are cut and eaten within minutes which is the reason for growing these in the garden rather than on the plot, and so there is really no occasion to take a photo. Here is the source material instead.
The bed has an enviromesh cover to protect against aphids as well as offering protection from birds.
Alongside the salad bed we have various pots of herbs which are also being cut and used as required. The thyme needs a bit of tidying up! (oops sorry that photo isn't thyme it's actually marjoram -  Origanum Vulgare.
The parsley in the photo is last year's plant, more seedlings are growing on to take its place. We have curled and flat leaved parsley along with basil, Corsican mint and coriander under our grow lights in a spare room.
The chives on the plot are in flower now and I don't like removing them so I cut a batch of leaves and chopped and froze them. Once the flowers are over I will cut the plants back to encourage new leaf growth.
Rhubarb is still being harvested. The single stick below was used to make a rhubarb sauce to accompany a pork steak.
The spring onions were a chance find. I was clearing a bed in which I had sown some salad seeds last year and I found a row of spring onions. They are a crop that we suddenly have had issues with when trying to grow. The onions may look a bit shabby but once the outer layer of skin was removed the onions were just fine. This year I will purposely sow some to overwinter.

The large onion was an autumn planted onion that harvested itself as it toppled over and out of the ground. It had grown a flower stem but it will still have some usable onion.

The final plot offering was a vase of cut flowers, mixed cornflowers and sweet rocket. I posted about growing the cornflowers for early flowering here.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Friday, May 19

Annual Flower Bed

You may remember that each year I plant up an annual flower bed on the plot. It provides cut flowers and the bees enjoy it as much as we do.
For the past few years I have raised the seeds in pots and planted them out as described in this post. The end result had been fairly successful even though at the planting out stage things haven't looked too promising.

This year I am trying something different for two reasons, the first being that space in the greenhouse is at a premium and, with fruit and vegetable plants taking priority, the seedlings never really had the best upbringing.

The second reason is that last year I tried some direct sowing and the plants seemed to grow stronger. The reason for the first direct sowing was that I wanted to use up the left over seeds so I mixed them up and sowed them in a trench of compost, just like we sow parsnips and carrots. The seeds were sown in mid-June and resulted in an attractive display of much healthier looking plants.
In retrospect I sowed the seeds too thickly and also I should have considered that some varieties would dominated as the cosmos did and hide the lower growing plants. I should have graded the seeds according to the height that the plants would achieve. Overall though it was a success and continued flowering after the originally planted bed had faded.

This spurred me on to try sowing some hardy annual seeds in autumn to overwinter and hopefully produce earlier flowers. I sowed cornflowers, some larkspur seeds that were a couple of years old, calendula and a packet of mixed annual seeds on 15 September and covered with enviromesh. This was more to protect them from being eaten than to offer protection from the weather.

The seeds germinated in a week and by mid October looked like this.
They continued to grow through November.

In March, when the mesh was removed, the bed looked like this.
The cornflowers were doing well, most of the calendula had been eaten presumably by slugs and the larkspur failed which could have been down to using old seed. As for the mixed seeds, there is a mix of leaf types but until they flower I can't say which varieties have survived. The cornflowers have gone on to produce the strongest looking cornflowers that I have grown and they are already providing cut flowers.
I'm standing by the side of the bed to give an idea of the height that the cornflowers have grown. I am five foot one and a half inches (just over 1.56m). I've always aspired to being five foot two).
The mild winter could have helped the plants to survive and it will be interesting to see what happens next year as I plan to repeat the process again, maybe adding some different varieties to the cornflowers which will be a must. Has anyone any recommendations?

The success with self sown annuals set me thinking, that maybe I have been too soft with the hardy annuals, so this year I decided to try the direct sowing method. I sorted the seeds that I had bought into hardy and half hardy. Some seeds of each of the half hardy varieties have been sown inside as an insurance policy. 
The hardy varieties and some seeds from the half hardy types were sown direct in compost trenches on 13 May and some only five days later are already germinating. I've learned for the late summer sowing and have sown each variety of seeds in a patch rather than mixing them together and tried to position smaller varieties in positions where they have less chance of being swamped by cosmos.
No doubt there will be patches in the germination and so indoor sown half hardy annuals will be used to plug the gaps.

As with all gardening it is now wait and see time.

Wednesday, May 17

Harlow Carr - Alpine House

Sunday, May 14

Return to Hodsock for the bluebells.

Last weekend was busy but not in the gardening sense, we gave ourselves the weekend off and had planned a visit to Leicestershire but as we headed south the weather turned drizzly so we turned around and headed back north and out of the drizzle. As we were passing close to NT Clumber Park we decided to stop off there. This turned out to be a good move and we spent the afternoon amongst the squirrels and goslings.  I posted about this here

Sunday, camera batteries fully charged we headed for Hodsock Priory where they were opening for the weekend to share their bluebell woods at its peak.

After a quick coffee in the woodland cafe we decided that we would look around the rest of the garden before visiting the bluebells. We visited the garden in February when Hodsock was open for the snowdrop display. Over the months the views in the garden had changed completely giving us plenty more photo opportunities.

After a lunchtime sausage sandwich round the camp fire we had our first walk around the bluebell wood. 
It's really surprising that the bluebell days are less well visited than the snowdrop days as for us the bluebell display nudged the snowdrops into second place.

It's really difficult to do justice to the bluebells with a mere camera but we gave it our best shot. These are just one or two of the vast number of photos that we ended up with.

After another coffee whilst listening to a take on the history of Hodsock given by George the lucky owner, the visitor number thinned out and so we had another walk around this time to take video. 

If you would like to see more of our photos of the visit you can view using the links to our online photo album.

It's a shame that the gardens are not open in summer and autumn so we could create an album from a different perspective. Maybe on day they will plant lots of primroses and they will open for a primrose walk.

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

Friday, May 12

Playing Catch-Up

I really have fallen behind at keeping my blog and website up to date. This is mainly for good reasons - days out , visiting, gardening etc but there have also been some unwelcome reasons involving vet's visits.

With this in mind I thought I'd write a catch-up post about the state of play on the plot. In this post I am focusing on the vegetable side of our plot gardening. Having said that the autumn raspberries that I have recently tidied up have sneaked into the picture.
The potatoes are our six trial varieties which were growing well before Jack Frost struck.

The winter onions are growing quickly and will soon be ready to harvest. Last year's winter onions kept us well supplied until the spring planted onions were ready. We still have one or two that are useable.

Our first lot of broad beans have had a tough time suffering from lack of moisture, being bombarded by hailstones and strong winds and being attacked by weevils but they are struggling on and producing flowers.
Between our plot visits on Monday and Thursday disaster struck and the potatoes that were growing really well have had the tops frosted.
Incredibly the frost chose to decimate some tops and spare others. Martyn posted a short film showing more damage here. We expect the plants to rally but this is a setback so it is fortunate that this year we are growing some potatoes in containers that are protected inside the greenhouse and so should still have some to crop reasonably early. The planting was staggered.
All our potatoes are planted up now in several beds scattered around the plot and again we staggered the planting so some still need to emerge. The early potatoes below are Casablanca in their prefrosted state.
The onions and shallots were all started in modules before planting out. The original leaves are looking a little worse for wear due to the conditions that they have had to suffer but they still seem to be growing.

The brassicas - calabrese, cabbage and cauliflowers - on the other hand have been cossetted in the cold frame in five inch pots before planting out. The environmesh is to keep, pigeons, butterflies and whitefly at bay.

Our first lot of peas germinated well but the conditions have meant that growth is slow and they are struggling with weevil damage. No amount of enviromesh can protect against weevils. Hopefully they will speed up their growth now and outpace the weevils.

This week we sowed our mangetout and mushy peas. The sticks laid on the surface are to protect sowing area from birds dust bathing and animals walking on the area.
Under cover below are salad crops. 
Parsnip seeds have been sown in compost trenches. The video at the end of this post explains our sowing method.
Unlike the onions previously mentioned, the ones above were planted directly as sets so it will be interesting to see whether these catch up with those started in modules.

Finally, we have now sown the carrots in the same way as the parsnips with the addition of a covering of enviromesh to protect against carrot fly. This will be kept in place throughout the season.
If you are interested I have put together a video showing how we sow our parsnips and carrots but be warned that it is nearly ten minutes long. There is a narration so make sure your sound is turned on.

Wednesday, May 10

Meeting some of the residents at Clumber Park

More photos and video taken at Clumber Park are in this album - why not take a look

Friday, May 5

It's taken a long while to get to this point

Last year I tackled one of our autumn raspberry beds, (I posted about it here), which was planted up with Joan J raspberries. It was infested with bindweed. The raspberries were dug up, the roots tidied and as much of the bindweed root as possible removed. The canes only produced a handful, (well less than that), of fruit. We were prepared for this as it was a case of kill or cure. Most replanted roots are growing well this year so maybe they will produce more fruit. I just need to be vigilant and remove any bindweed that tries to reassert itself.
Joan J raspberries this year
My plan this year was to tackle the other autumn raspberry bed - the home of All Gold. This time the plants were infested by couch grass and to be honest the tidying up was a few years overdue.

I decided that the only way the tidying was ever going to be done was bit by bit whenever I could spare the time in between other more urgent jobs. I tried to make a start in March but the ground was just too muddy. As with most of our allotment beds the window between the ground being too wet and too dry is fairly short lived especially when dealing with a bed that is well compacted and riddled with couch grass roots.
I managed to make a start at the beginning of April when the ground was just about dry enough to work with. The bed was planted up at least ten years ago during which time couch grass roots had woven their way in between the old gnarled raspberry roots. The only way to make a half decent job of tidying the bed was to dig up the raspberries and sort out some fresh, young pieces to replant freed from the shackles of couch grass. Being autumn fruiting raspberries, last year's canes were cut to the ground after replanting the pieces of root.
As you can see from the photos above by the time I was near completion the ground was hard and dry. I had to resort to crumbling clods of earth in a way that can only be compared to the rubbing in method used when making pastry.

The tidying up took a whole month to complete with snatches of time stolen as they became available. Finally the bed is tidy and replanted.
The plants have been treated to a dose of fish, blood and bone so now it is a case of seeing how many of the plants survive. At the moment the first roots to be replanted are sending up strong new shoots.
I don't expect to be picking many raspberries from this bed this year and I'm sure that there are still pieces of couch grass roots waiting to spring into life but I hope when they do I'll be ready for them.

Another raspberry that I don't expect to produce fruit this year is our newly planted black raspberry - Black Jewel We can't wait to see what the fruit is like but I guess that we will have to.

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