Tuesday, 25 May 2010

What a scorcher! Costa del allotment

The sun was cracking the flags all weekend, and it got to a sweltering 40 degrees centigrade in the greenhouse.  At last, our first glimpse of real summer weather, it's definitely been a while, and it feels like longer because of the bitter winter we had.  I've had to do lots of watering to stop all the plants wilting, so I feel like I haven't stopped all weekend.

On Friday I planted a large terracotta pot with lysimachia, a dwarf sunflower, an orange nasturtium, a yellow nasturtium and a red pansy and a yellow pansy.  I've put this in the front garden.

On Saturday morning I shipped 3 trays of tomatoes and 1 tray of peas and pumpkins to the allotment.  I planted 14 tomato plants into the bottom greenhouse.  I also finished off the row of sweetcorn (3 successional sowings), and planted 5 pumpkins amongst the sweetcorn.  It was like an oven in the greenhouse but I stuck it out.

Chris planted out the peas, 2 per cane (for next year's reference, this wasn't enough - I should have done a full row with netting above, but I'll plants some seeds in the gaps and they'll soon catch up).

I took a cold frame full of bedding and hanging basket plants from the greenhouse at home into the back garden to harden off, there's loads of them, all ready to be planted out when I get chance.  Some of the trailing plug plants from Brookside nurseries look ace, and I'll certainly buy them again next year.

In the evening I went to my friend's 40th birthday party at a local vegetarian restaurant.  I planted an orange nasturtium in a terracotta pot for her present, presented in a yellow tub trug (she loves yellow and orange things).

To eat, I had Carribean curry with sweet potato, banana, apricot, green sultanas, corn, green beans in a green apple and tomato curry sauce, served with coconut basmati rice and some kind of salad.  Followed by caramel apple pie, cream and ice cream.  Washed down with 2 tequila sunrises and a fresh coffee.  MMMMMmmm!

On Sunday I tied up the allotment tomatoes using twine, to stop them flopping.  I still need to tie up the tomatoes at home, I just haven't had time.  My Dad showed me a good knot for tying up tomatoes, but I've forgot, so I need to look into this.  I think I may have remembered but I need to double check.  I weeded the onions and the 3 raised beds, so these look under control now.  I sowed some more beetroot and some mixed leaves.

Chris started my Dad's memorial area at the allotment - a brick planter 3 rows of bricks deep.  We need to finish it by next Saturday as his birthday is Sunday 30th May, and we're having a service to place some of his ashes in the ground there.

I took all the beans from the home greenhouse to the back garden to harden off, as well as the squashes, marrows and courgettes, with the exception of the hunter butternut squash which is not being planted outside (it's going in the top greenhouse).

I also dropped the staging above the tomatoes in grow bags so they've plenty of room to grow now.  The greenhouse is less cramped and I'm trying to narrow it down to just cucumbers, tomatoes, chillies, aubergines and peppers.

On Monday I realised I'd made a very silly mistake.  DT Brown sent me some trial cherry tomato seeds with my order earlier this year and the plants germinated and grew really well.  But I have mistakenly removed the top shoot thinking it was a side shoot!  I did this with a cherry tomato last year. So I've had to dig up the plants and replace them with some others, otherwise the plants would have grown really squat and bushy.  Now I don't have any trial cherry tomato plants left.  Well, I'll still feedback to DT Brown about the seeds, and say how well they were going, and to maybe warn people on the seed packet to not mistakenly remove the top shoot.  Cherry tomatoes grow differently from normal tomatoes and that's why I cocked up.  I'll know better next year.  Half of this allotment lark is learning from mistakes.

My beautiful greenhouse lettuce have also started to bolt - it was obviously too hot for them in the greenhouse over the weekend and they've decided to go to seed.  I need to eat them asap as they'll be going bitter.

I ate my first strawberries and gooseberries fresh off the plant - very tasty.

I've booked next week off work, so I'm looking forward to catching up with the garden and allotment and getting on top of things.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Make a little birdhouse in... Chris's Mum's garden. And a tomato panic!

On Saturday we drove over to Bolton to see Chris's Mum for her birthday and drop off the birthday present Chris made for her - a bird table, with 4 nesting boxes, and a gardening caddy, all handmade from wood. The nesting boxes even had proper felt roofs and leaves painted on the side. It took him a while to make them all and he's made a really good job of them. His Mum was very impressed and it looked lovely once it was all set up.

On Sunday I redug the rough patch for the third time and took out 3 buckets worth of bindweed roots! I weeded everywhere, then resowed some radish and spring onion, and fed the damson, rhubarb and passion flower with blood, fish and bone. I spotted about 4 flower buds on the passion flower - Chris was chuffed as he's been waiting for about 3 years for it to flower, ever since he sowed it from some seeds that he got from the pound shop. He gave our friend Emma a plant and hers flowered last year. I planted out some borage at the allotment too, as bees are meant to like it, but I'm a bit worried that it's a prolific self-seeder so I may be lumbered with it now for years to come, but if it makes the bees happy then it can't be a bad thing. The cherry blossom petals all over the path to the allotment still look amazing, just like a delicate pink carpet. Chris's mum doesn't like it in her garden though, even though it was floating down like confetti.

Back at home I planted out the poached egg plants, nemophila and borage, and staked the sweet peas. I took the peas, broad beans, pansies, and violas home to harden off.

I panicked as the leaves at the bottom of some of the tomato plants had started to go yellow, so I fed them on Monday night, then planted 6 of them into grow bags on Tuesday night. The Sungold seemed to be the worst affected as well as some of the trial cherry tomatoes. It's probably nothing to worry about but yellow leaves can't be a good sign and I think the plants are outgrowing their pots - so 6 are in grow bags now. By coincidence I have grown 6 different varieties, moneymaker, alicante, my Dad's yellow tomato seeds that he saved, the trial cherry tomato from DT Brown, sungold and shirley.

I need to get the rest of my tomatoes, sweetcorn and pumpkins planted into the bottom greenhouse this weekend. Now I wish I'd have been more generous with the manure when I did it a few months back! I could also do with planting out the peas and broad beans.

Weather wise, it seems to have picked up a bit this week, and I'd be surprised if we get another frost. I think it's time to get lots of stuff hardening off in the coldframe this weekend - I have bedding plants coming out of my ears at the minute. And the hanging baskets need planting too,

But everything's still relatively small, and it's hard to imagine the plants when they're fully grown. I think's there's always an element of doubt in the back of my mind wondering if everything will grow and do what it's meant to! The sweet peas look so small, it's hard to image them in full flower. This is why I love gardening, the plants do all the hard work, all they need is a bit of water and some TLC.

I got a new book off Amazon this week. It was recommended in the Digger's Diary - A Hellyer's Your Garden Week By Week. It's a very old fashioned book, but handy for seeing what you should have done by when. I've only had a quick look at it so far as I've been really busy listing my Dad's amateur radio equipment on eBay, it's received the most interest out of anything I've ever sold on eBay which was quite a surprise. But it's took a lot of work to get things listed and packed up and I was still up at 1.30am last night doing it.  It needs selling though as it's no use to me and my Mum, we don't have a clue what to do with any of it.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Getting caned and the Digger's Diary

On Friday, we tried Asda's Extra Special Cotes Du Rhone Villages wine, which was nice and tasty, a bit licoricey and I would buy it again.

I wasn't feeling well on Saturday (not due to the wine!) so I didn't get much done during the day, but we went for a curry with my Mum in the evening.  I made up for it on Sunday and did a non-stop shift at the allotment from 10am - 5pm.  I tidied the bottom greenhouse.

The lettuce in bottom greenhouse look amazing!  I can't wait to eat them.

I took the fig to the allotment and repotted it into a 15" pot, sowed some Nicky's Nursery wildlife seed mix wildflowers in between the gooseberries, thinned the radishes, put some bird food on the bird table, watered and redug half of the rough patch.

Then Chris came with a box of cheese sandwiches and crisps (a welcome sight!) and he helped me put the bean canes in.

I went to my mum's for homemade fish pie and cherry pie and cream.  Due to the relative failure of the pumpkin seeds I ordered some Pumpkin F1 Rocket seeds from Johnsons, so I sowed these in the greenhouse, took all the nasturtiums to harden off, repotted the black eyed susan microdot and thinned out the livingstone daisies - I turned one seed tray of seedlings into 2 seed trays and a full set of modules.   I also brought the coldframe back from the allotment as I'll have lots of plants to harden off in the coming weeks.  I didn't get home til 8pm and my hands were black :)

Two of the Atlantic Giant seeds I sowed last week have germinated, as well as the aubergines, rudbeckia and two melon emir.

I got an ace book off Amazon called 'Digger's Diary: Tales from the Allotment' by Victor Osborne.

I've started reading it and I know already that I don't want it to end.  It's very rare that I read fiction, but it's so well written and even has recipes in there too.  I love the picture on the cover, especially the lovely blackbird with its beady yellow eye.  From watching the blackbirds that live near me I've discovered they're feisty little birds - quite cheeky and not scared of standing up for themselves, bless them.

I also bought 'Mexican Made Simple' by Thomasina Miers, who's related to my brother in law.  I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes in her book, some look pretty easy and tasty.

Oh I nearly forgot - the first potatoes have popped up!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cabbage patch kids, beetroot face and a cherry blossom skip

I took the minutes at the shop meeting on Thursday.  Let me let you into a secret.  I HATE meetings.  I am too shy to speak at meetings, and if I do speak I go bright red.  Someone once pointed this out at a meeting, the fact that my face was beetroot red, and it pushed me over the edge.  Meetings are when I really feel like an introvert, and like I don't fit in, because no one else seems to have the same problem.  On the other hand extroverts love meetings, they love having a group of people poised and ready to listen to their every word.  At least taking the minutes gave me something to do. As much as I want the shop to happen, I'm beginning to wonder how much time I can give up at the moment, as gardening is keeping me busy, and that's where my heart lies.  Either that, or all these meetings are starting to put me off.  Just give me something to do and I'll do it, but don't ask me to sit in lots of meetings because it's not my cup of tea!  I'm a do-er, not a talker.  Thank God I have respite from people and meetings when I am with my plants in my garden!

Anyhow, back to the point.  My weekly supermarket shopping trip on Friday morning was cancelled, as a skip was arriving at the allotment.  The Council paid for an 8 tonne skip for all the plot holders to fill with rubbish.  I dumped a lot of rubbish in there, including bags of waste and broken glass.  It was soon full up, so I'm glad I got down there early.  I'd taken a lot of rubbish to the tip in my car earlier this year, so we didn't have too much to get rid of.  Here's a picture of the skip and the gorgeous cherry blossom trees that line the path into the allotment and are currently in full flower.

After my usual Friday shopping and cleaning mission, we settled down for veggie burgers and fries.  This week's wine was a 2005 Chianti reserva, which was OK, but still not as good as the Campo Viejo Rioja, why I don't just buy that I don't know - I will next week.  We finished things off with a delicous clotted cream, caramel and honeycomb ice cream, mmmmm.

On Saturday I had my hair cut then we nipped to Homebase and Chris bought 4 new blueberry bushes.  He potted them all up in ericaceous compost at the allotment.

I planted out the cabbage, sprouts and kale in the brassica patch, and then netted, slug pelleted, egg shelled and wheatbranned the patch.

After this I rearranged the plants in the greenhouse at home - some of the tomatoes on the top shelf had reached the roof so I moved them down onto the staging.  The first trusses have appeared but not flowered.

On Sunday, we went to the flea market in the morning and I got a book on paper craft, an old collection of Woolworth's knitting patterns and a large terracotta planter for £1.

In the afternoon, I got a rush of blood and decided to clean out the top greenhouse at the allotment.  It was pretty messy, so whilst the skip was there I thought I'd get it done.  I got rid of 2 chests of drawers, which I broke down and put in the skip, they'd gone mouldy and weren't being used.  It looks a lot better now (ignore the chair and the boxes in the photo - they're only there until we do some work on the foundations of the shed!).

Then I went to Duckworth Hall with my mum for my usual cheese and onion pie.  The pudding this week was sticky ginger, which was nice, but not as good as sticky toffee.

It was a bank holiday on Monday, so I got the day off work.  I repotted the chillies and aubergine.  I sowed a 9" terracotta pot with salad leaves for my mum.  I resowed the melon, mars and atlantic giant pumpkin, rudbeckia and aubergine.  I wondered if the pumpkin, melon and aubergine hadn't germinated due to the propagator not being hot enough - I've avoided gaps in the glass this time and cranked up the heat to full.  I desperately need the pumpkins to grow as I'm planning a 3 sisters style bed in the border soil in the bottom greenhouse.  I've already planned to fill a full side with sweetcorn so I might as well have some squash crawling around below.  The hunter butternut squash, courgettes and marrow germinated fine - perhaps it was due to the pumpkin seeds being old?

Note for next year.  I planted the beans too early, they're already 8 inch high, so they only need putting in a few weeks before the last frost.

The peas have germinated.

The sweet peas in the hanging basket are doing well.

I also planted out the sweet peas in my back garden, I haven't done my Mum's yet because she needs her fence painting. For tea I made a puy lentil spaghetti bolognese, using my Mum's delicious recipe, and substituting minced beef for puy lentils.  For pudding I made fairy cakes with warm dulche de leche sauce.  They didn't last long!

My Noro Kureyon sock yarn has come - but I'm still confused re what pattern/needle size to use.   I found a great pattern for socks online, which stated a 2.5mm long circular needle, but they don't have 2.5mm needles on our wool stall, just 2.25mm and 2.75mm.  So I bought 2.25mm but this was too small and I went back today to buy the 2.75mm.  I think I need to order the official noro sock pattern and be done with it, but I'll be well chuffed if I knit my own pair of lovely warm socks.

Some blackbirds nested in my mum's back garden in a conifer tree.  We've been watching the parents feeding them for the past few weeks.  On Saturday morning my Mum found 3 of the chicks dead on the floor.  But one chick was still alive and being fed.  I noticed on Monday that it was down the back of the greenhouse and its parents were still feeding it.  On Tuesday morning my mum woke up to lots of bird whistles and a ginger cat had killed the last chick.  I am gutted.  The parents worked so hard finding worms to feed the chicks and now they are all dead.  It doesn't seem fair and it has really peed me off.  I am really upset.  I feel like I could have done more.  And I feel awful for the little birds that didn't get a chance, and got attacked by a cat.  I heard the birds' rattle-like calls this morning when I got up and I should have gone out but I didn't.  I feel really bad about this, but Chris says it's just the way nature works.

I need to help birds more, and there's a great opportunity to do this at the allotment.  It's a wildlife haven and we need to capitalise on that.