Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Another weekend of gardening

We were busy down at the allotment on Saturday.  I mulched around the bottom of the damson tree with some bark chippings.  I did this for two reasons - to attempt to suppress the weeds under the tree, but also to make the tree stand out a bit more and look cared for.  I don't want the tenants on the other plot accidentally trampling on it.  It's a damson 'Merryweather' tree, about 1 metre tall, and is probably one of the last things my Dad planted down at the allotment, so I'm keen to make sure it's well looked after.

I sowed some radish and spring onion in the bottom greenhouse and planted the baby greenhouse lettuce plants from home next to the garlic, which is coming on nicely.

The first blossoms have set on the peach tree in the top greenhouse, they're lovely pink flowers, very pretty.

The rhubarb seems to be taking to its new home, and the forced rhubarb is growing a little faster.  Crumble here we come.

Chris started a new strawberry bed with six plants we bought from Aldi for £2.99.  He also replanted the onion sets that I mistakenly thought were over wintering sets and planted in October - they've only just started coming through!  So he rescued these and put them into the bed with the shallots and planted some more red and golden (Stuttgarter) onion sets next to them.  He also sowed some more spring onion seeds and beetroot seeds.

We watched a great bluray film on Saturday night - Up.  I've fallen in love with the dog from the film, Dug, he's a real cutie.  It's well worth a watch.  In fact, I think I'm going to buy it I liked it that much.  One of the extras on the disc, called 'Partly Cloudy', and about cloud people was particularly great.

I weeded and tidied the front and back gardens on Sunday.  I spotted a rogue bluebell that is about to bloom.  It's set up home in a crack in the paving just in front of our house.

One of the forget-me-nots has got its first flower.

And the primula out the back have come to life, and lots of purple and white flowers have appeared from what looked like miniature cabbages!  Still no sign of the daffodils, anenomes, tulips, snowdrops and bluebell bulbs that I planted, although there are lots of green shoots in place that look promising.

Our cacti collection has been dormant since October, and I haven't been watering them, so on Sunday I stuck them all in the bath and watered them and gave them a spray.

My Amazon delivery finally arrived yesterday, so I read some of Alys Fowler's Edible Garden last night.  At first glance it looks great, and true to her usual form there are lots of new ideas in there, rather than a re-hash of the same old gardening advice.

I borrowed the Virgin Gardener by Laetitia Maklouf from the library and I'm liking all the projects in there too.

I went to a meeting on Thursday last week about a project I'm involved with to set up an eco-shop/cafe in our town.  We've got 3 months to get things moving and people were going to look at premises yesterday.  I need to research suppliers and products in time for this Thursday's meeting.

I bought a purple Aubretia alpine plant yesterday to fill a gap in the flower border in my front garden.  I wish I knew if I could dig up cyclamen bulbs and store them until Autumn, or if I should leave them in the ground?  I can't seem to find an answer online, but the plants have died back to brown bulbs now and I need to re-utilise the space they're taking up.

I planted some night scented flower seeds on Monday night.  Phlox and two varieties of night scented stock (starlight sensation was one of them).  I love the idea of flowers that smell gorgeous at night.  The night scented stock was really potent last year. I also planted half a seed tray full of star dust seeds - these were so pretty last year and got lots of compliments.  They're lovely tiny little flowers.  I took the viola, heliotrope, lobelia and Chinese forget-me-nots to the greenhouse.  Stupidly, I managed to drop the seed tray containing the Chinese forget-me-nots, and only managed to rescue 2 seedlings (only one had popped up through the soil anyway).  That'll teach me for rushing and trying to carry too many things at once.  I'm a bit disappointed with the heliotrope.  I sowed a small seed tray full of them at the beginning of March but only 5 weakish looking seedlings have popped up, although on the back of the packed it says germination time 21-30 days, so I've put them in the propagator now to try and speed things up. Heliotrope are better known as 'cherry pie' and smell scrumptious.

The greenhouse is already looking full, and there's lots more to sow in April, so I'm hoping it will be OK to plant the sweet peas and nasturtiums outside to free up some space on the staging.

Snow is forecast for today, as crazy as that sounds, what with it being the end of March.  I hope we don't get any because it could play havoc in the garden.

It's a full moon tonight, and it's descending too, so it will be nice and large.  I would have been able to watch it rise from my bedroom window, however I think the clouds may put an end to that idea.  Nothing new there then.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Books - I just can't get enough of them

I'm an information sponge.  I read lots and lots of non-fiction, mainly gardening books, cookery books and knitting books.

I've just finished Alys Fowler's 'The Thrifty Gardener'.  They've had this book in a cheap bookshop called the 'The Works' for about 6 months, and I've picked it up a few times, and put it down.  I was put off by the photo on the front, thinking it was just a poncy book, with no real substance.  Just some posh girl rambling on about using toilet roll tubes as plant pots.  BUT I WAS WRONG!  Very wrong.  And I've learnt the lesson not to judge a book by its cover.  I eventually ended up loaning it from the library and I read it cover to cover in 3 nights.  It's one of the best gardening books I've read in a long time.  Alys really knows her stuff.  And it's not just your usual run of the mill, samey samey gardening advice, I actually learnt something new.  Alys is now my new favourite gardening hero(ine).  I ordered her new Edible Garden book on Amazon today, and can't wait for the BBC TV series of the same name to start soon.  Alys rules.

Another book I'm halfway through (it's about 2 inches thick) is 'Home Comforts - The Art and Science of Keeping House' by Cheryl Mendelson.  If there was a university degree in house keeping this would be the study text.  Forgot rubbish like 'How Clean is your House' or Anthea Turner's 'How to be the Perfect Housewife', 'Home Comforts' wipes the floor with them.  If you ever wanted to know the right way to go about cleaning and looking after your house, as well as ensuring it's a pleasant and safe place to live, this is the book for you.  It covers all topics in extensive detail, it really is amazing, and worth the meagre £12 that Amazon are charging for it.  I can confidently hang my washing out on the line, knowing that all my pegs are in the right place.  An essential reference for any house proud person.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lots more seeds sown, and my sister and 2 nieces paid a visit

On Friday I sowed some brachycome, morning glory (blue and carnivale de Venice) sweetcorn lark, black eyed susan susie mixed and nicotiana.

My sister arrived on Saturday with my 2 little nieces, aged 4 and 6.  They stayed until today, and it was lovely having them over.  They live in the flattest part of the country (Fenland), and they'd never been up a hill before, so on Sunday morning we went to the top of the Coppice (the biggest hill in my town).  

In the afternoon we visited Haworth Art Gallery and did a spot of painting, before having tea at Duckworth Hall, where I ordered my usual - cheese and onion pie, chips and salad, followed by Cartmel sticky toffee pudding and ice cream.  Delicious as always.  And the girls ordered the same as their Aunt Gemma!

My nieces were keen to lend a hand in the greenhouse, and as well as helping me water, they helped to sow some kale, sprouts, cabbage, catmint and pansies on Sunday afternoon.

I was back in the greenhouse on Monday, sowing some basil, coriander and chives in the terracotta elephant planter set that our friend Emma bought us as a house warming present last year.  This will come and live in our kitchen once the herbs are established.

Lots of seedlings have now popped up and I've taken them out of the propagator to make way for new ones to germinate.

Before the girls left I gave them a little Easter treat that I'd knitted for them - a bunny and a chicken, both with a Cadbury's Creme Egg stuffed up their bottoms!   They were well chuffed with them.  I got the pattern for free off Jean Greenhowe's website http://www.jeangreenhowe.com/patterns.html

Sunday, 14 March 2010

My radio debut! BBC Radio Lancashire visited our allotments

BBC Radio Lancashire did a two hour live show from our allotments today!  It was loads of fun, and presenter Stephen Lowe interviewed me in my greenhouse.  Lynne from the allotments set up a gazebo (pictured) and made everyone sausage, bacon and egg sandwiches, tea, coffee, pea soup as well as baking three super delicious sponge cakes (I must get the recipe off her - she said it was one of Delia's).

You can listen to the show for a limited time on their website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p006sl5b/Stephen_Lowe_14_03_2010/  I haven't dared listen to it yet - I'm too scared to hear what I'll sound like!  But at least I was brave enough to go on, being the shy little thing that I am.

They're planning to come back and do another show in the summer.

A busy weekend at the allotment

'Major Tom', one of our fellow allotmenteers, gave us five gooseberry bushes on Saturday, so I dug up the overgrown area next to the right hand path to create a home for them.  It was tough going, compacted soil, with lots of weeds, bits of glass and stones.  Back breaking stuff, but worth it just for the thought of all the fruit crumbles I'll be able to make with the gooseberries, as well as the rhubarb that we planted last weekend (pictured).  I do love a good crumble.

Chris boarded around the raised beds, so they're nice and secure now, as well as oiling the wood and painting the new shed a lovely shade of forest green.

On Sunday I got a few more seeds planted in the greenhouse at home.  I sowed some more sweet peas, this time they're not in the electric propagator, just in a seed tray with a propagator lid, as well as some lobelia, Chinese forget me nots and cucumbers.  I noticed a few more seedlings have popped up, including the black eyed susans (microdot), some sweet peas, some more tomatoes and the dichondra.

Knitted baby booties

I've finished knitting the baby booties for my friend Yasmin's baby girl, Firdaus.  I must admit the pattern was a bit tricky, but I managed to get my head round it, and I feel a lot more confident with knitting patterns now.

The first seedlings of the year

The first seedlings of the year appeared yesterday.  They're tomato seedlings - Shirley, Sungold, and a trial cherry tomato free from D.T. Browns.  I had to take the glass off the top of the plant pots, and I was worried the seedlings might flop overnight due to the cold weather (we had a mild frost), but they survived fine.  It's hard to believe those tiny little plants will eventually yield lots of juicy red tomatoes.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spring has sprung

Just when I thought the spring bulbs weren't going to flower, the first crocus made an appearance today.  Spotted lots of other bulb shoots too, so it looks like there'll be more flowers on the way soon.

Sweet peas are go

I've sown my sweet peas. I soaked them in warm water overnight before putting them into pots in the propagator. I've sown a classic Spencer variety, along with Thompson and Morgan's 'Sugar and Spice' which is bred especially for hanging baskets. My Dad always grew lots of sweet peas when I was a child, so their smell and appearance bring back lovely memories for me.

I've also sown some viola, nasturtium, heliotrope, black eyed susan microdot, aubergine, sweet pepper and strawberries.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hey good looking, what you got cooking?

Today was my Mum's birthday, so I invited her round for tea and I made a yummy chicken casserole with leeks, turnip, onion, celery, carrots, potato and chicken. I also baked her a birthday cappuccino cake. Mmmmmm.

Welcome to my allotment blog, all the way from sunny Lancashire

I've been meaning to do this for a while.  A blog, that is. Just a way for me to record what I'm up to, because whilst it seems obvious at the time, it's funny how quick you forget.

Anyhow. Yesterday I got busy in the greenhouse and planted the first seeds of the season. Tomatoes and peppers. They're in pots, cooking away in the propagator, under panes of glass. It might be too early, but the seed packets said January - March, so it didn't seem like too much of a risk. I'd normally just ask my Dad, but, he's not here to ask anymore, so it's all up to me now. Some guy down the allotment, calls himself  'Barry the gardener', reckons everything's a month behind because of the cold weather, but I'm not convinced.

As for the allotment, well Chris has been working his heart out down there, despite having one of the most physically demanding jobs Monday-Friday, he's been up at 7am on Saturdays and Sundays for the past 4 weeks, braving the freezing conditions and knocking the plot back into shape. Four raised beds in. Soil dug. Shed erected. Old shed repaired. Glass in one greenhouse cleaned. Huge pile of weeds and brambles removed. Compacted soil dug over. He's made a huge difference. We dug some manure in last weekend, so everything's good to go. Playing the waiting game now. Thinking about plots and plans (hence the name of the blog), what needs to go where, bearing crop rotation in mind, of course. I shall keep you posted.