Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Helping hands

It was the most glorious Sunday, warm and sunny. Armed with a picnic, the little one and I spent all afternoon at the allotment. We pottered around weeding and watering, making mud pies and practising scootering. I sowed a row of French Breakfast Radish and thinned carrots. We had a visit from a friend I've known since I was about the little one's age who brought sandwiches, strawberries and smoothies.
My (award-winning) neighbours at the allotment gave me two tomato plants, a Big Boy and a Costoluto Fiorentino. I planted them both in my cold frame, where I dug in loads of well rotted manure, practically a whole bag in the 4'x4' square. I'm not sure what I do when the tomatoes out grow the cold frame - I guess I lift the frame off and hope we're past the frosts and pray they don't get blight? Now I've found loads of 15mm piping in a skip I might build a mini poly tunnel over the tomatoes - yes I think I will do that.
Today I managed to put guttering on the shed which was so easy peasy, like child's play, just clipped it all together. All I need now is a water butt to replace the bin which there at the moment.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Green manure

Digging in the green manure

I sowed some green manure five weeks ago in the bed where I am going to plant strawberries in late summer. This was packaged as a spring green manure and to be used as a soil conditioner. With the weather being wet and sunny last week it had really shot up. The packet instructed to dig in when 9'' tall. As I am not sure when I'll have much time at the allotment the next few days I thought I ought to get it dug in now. I have to be sure it does not flower and go to seed as that would be a disaster for the strawberries.

Companion planting
A row of Sweet Alyssum was sowed along the edge of potatoes. It has tiny white flowers which attract insects like hoverflies whose larva devour aphids. In the corners of the strawberry bed, under the gooseberry standards, I sowed some Love-in-a-Mist (nigella damascena) which was given to me by a gardening teacher.

Made with my own hands.

Ignore the fact that it needs a scrub...

Note: The hinged top...

and the removable front panel.

I have been claiming stuff from skips since we took on the allotment. As soon as I laid eyes on this pallet crate I could see it as a cold frame. It was another day and another skip when I claimed the plastic twin-wall sheeting. The other timber came from here and there. Bar the hinges which I already had, this creation cost me nothing but my time and plenty of elbow grease.
The base was very heavy - it's the type of crate that paving slabs and roof tiles are supplied in, so I had to saw out the majority of the structure and weight out of the bottom. Leaving it strong and stable and heavy enough to have no chance of being blown over by the wind. 
It's some of the finest bodging I've ever done. I'm very pleased with it. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Allotment therapy

I'm trying to make a cold frame out of skip finds - halfway there.

Peas under cover protection from mice and green manure in bed behind.

I only managed a measly half a day at the allotment over the whole of Easter as I was working back in the (-tougher than I left it 3 years ago) world of pop videos. My head was so knotted up with stress from the job that I thought my brain was going to explode. It was so blissfully calming and levelling to get a little time to do some sowing and weeding this bank holiday Monday. Thank God for Lottie! I needed the solitude and relished the time listening to bird song and children playing in the park.

So, what did I sow?
Finally the Ambassador Peas, which were supposed to be soaked for 4 hours before planting, actually they ended up, because of a immediacy of my job, soaking for 5 days! And in that time a lot had sprouted. Okay, so this may be another experiment that fails but I couldn't very well throw them away! I sowed one triple row and in a couple of weeks I shall sow another. To protect the peas from mice I covered the bed with some enviromesh.
With me I took my much coveted seed box - my mother's day present - which meant I also sowed Poached Egg plant limnanthes douglasii, Calendula 'Candyman' (-alongside the potatoes), two rows of Nantes 2 carrots and a row of Giant Italian Parsley.

Other things...
I was very excited to see that the lovage was really popping up. I shall have to transplant them soon. I want to use the lovage like an edible hedge as it can grow up to 7 feet tall - the giant of the herb world! I removed the enviromesh from the broad beans to allow the bees to get to the flowers. A couple of weeks ago, I nervously sowed some (spring) green manure on the strawberry bed which should act as a soil conditioner when dug in a couple of months from now or when it reaches 8 inches high. I am not planning on getting the strawberry plants until late summer - taking that advice from the late, great Geoff Hamilton. I am also in the middle recycling skip finds to construct a coldframe which I need to finish soon.

I left refreshed and ready for the arduous week ahead.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

my first early pototoes

Child-proof potato bed - I hope!

Today was such a lovely warm sunny day. I put the sides on another bed, took time to dig in some well-rotted horse manure. My plan was to make this bed half leeks and half potatoes, but I had so many seed potatoes that I stole a bit of the leek end and I also made three potato bags.
I planted swift variety and as the name implies I hope they shall be ready in no time.
I know my little one will be tempted to stamp and jump over the bed especially as he sees nothing growing, so I put some slates I liberated from a skip around the edges to discourage him.
As I had so many potatoes left I  turned three empty compost bags inside out, rolled down the sides and filled it with about 12"/30cm of multipurpose compost. Into each bag I put 3 seed potatoes. This is a technique I heard on Radio 4's gardeners question time last week so I'm very interested to see if it works.
I had some more garlic so I ran a line of them down the raspberry bed. I got the idea to do this from my file I have compiled of companion planting. 
Little one and I sowed some marigolds on Thursday and put them in the heated propagator and already many little seedlings are appearing! - photos to come.

Calabrese, Hispi Pointy Cabbage and Dahlias

I popped in very quickly to Lottie yesterday with some calabrese and Hispi pointy cabbage seedlings that I picked up at Wisley, where of course I had gone for something completely different. I have been very reluctant to grow brassicas as the are attacked for all directions but as I have a small (limed) bed with only one kale and one cabbage in, I thought I might as well make use of the space. I planted them firmly in with about 12"/30 cm between them. I have put some grit under them which I hope will keep the slugs off.
In the next bed, I was thrilled to notice the first signs of carrots coming up my young under-gardener though it was splendid too, so much so he launched himself across the whole bed, mesh, hoops and all and lay prostrate over the lot. I'm not sure the carrots are going to like that!
I also had a small bag of bright cerise pink dahlia bulbs and I put them in the flower bed.