Gertcha Rabbits!

allotment wire fence

Our allotment site is fenced with chicken wire to prevent rabbits from entering from the railway and fields beyond. As predicted, rabbits are finding ways to get in, along with deer. It was soon obvious that all the plots would benefit from being fenced too, around half of the plots are now protected but those that aren’t are having problems with crops being eaten, including ours.

blue allotment shed

Last year the little fuzzy butts ate all the carrot tops (then dug some of them, up scattering them everywhere), dug a whacking great hole in the potato bed and pooped all over the plot. This year, rabbits or deer munched garlic tops down to the stalks and damaged fruit bushes. I’m all for wildlife but enough is enough!

allotment photo

Last weekend Rich and I put a fence around our plot using chicken wire and wooden posts, stapling the wire onto the edges of the raised beds and paths to stop anything from digging under. I’ve visited our plot everyday this week and cannot see any further damage. We covered the garlic over with wire frames about a month ago and it’s recovering nicely now. The funny thing is, I thought I’d hate having a fence around the plot, in actual fact I quite like it. It makes the plot feel more like our little place, without losing the feel of community gardening or shutting our neighbours out. And our crops are a little bit harder to get at.

Potting on Tomatoes

tomato seedlings

My tomato seedlings are at the stage where they need to part company with their seedling buddies and move into larger accommodation on their own. When the second pair of true leaves emerge they’re ready for potting on.

tray of tomato seedlings

When potting on tomato seedlings plant deeper than they were previously to encourage a better root system, this helps with watering during the summer months and helps to create a stronger plant all round. Don’t be afraid to bury them up to their necks, they’ll soon start growing tall again. Depending on the time of year you may need to re-pot again before planting to final positions, again plant deeper.

Potting On Tomatoes Collage

As usual I have an obscene amount of young plants, far more than I need but I always find good homes for them. This year I’m growing ‘Sungold’, ‘Cherry Red’, Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Money Maker’ and ‘Tigerella’ varieties.

tomato seedlings

When the time comes to plant my tomatoes to their final positions, they go inside the greenhouse in deep containers. I feed with liquid comfrey and mulch the surface of the containers with comfrey leaves to slow down evaporation of moisture, saving me time with watering. As the leaves break down they enrich the soil where the surface roots are.

Fingers crossed for a great summer, I’m looking forward to tasty home-grown tomatoes.

Growing Happy Carrots

carrots collage

We haven’t done very well with growing carrots at the allotment, our plot in its 3rd year of being worked (previously uncultivated land) is still quite troublesome in places due to heavy clay soil. Carrots prefer light soil, growth will become stunted if grown in heavy soil resulting in stumpy carrots come harvest time. Some of our raised beds have better soil than others, growing potatoes (helps to break up stubborn soil) and adding organic matter has helped with improving the soil structure, but not quite enough to grow carrots successfully, it seems.

Being reasonably inexpensive to buy and readily available all year round, am I ever tempted not to grow my own carrots? It’s true they are fussy little blighters when it comes to soil type, making them tricky or almost impossible to grow for some. So are they really worth my time and effort? For me, the taste of a home-grown carrot is superior to any mass-produced, shop bought, plastic bag carrot. I don’t mind them being forked (some shapes are hilarious!) and I enjoy the sensation of pulling carrots that I’ve grown from the earth, a sweet carroty aroma drifts in the air with each satisfying pull. Soft, feathery leaves sway in the gentlest breeze making carrots an attractive crop to grow. For these reasons, I think carrots are well worth growing.

carrot leaves

This year we’re determined to grow some decent allotment carrots, like these….grown in our previous vegetable garden.

carrotsharvesting carrots

To solve our heavy soil problem we identified a raised bed with soil that had improved the most and filled it right up to the top with good quality compost. Pushing my hand down into the compost to check the depth, my entire hand and wrist were buried deeply before my fingers found the heavier soil. This should be deep enough for our carrots to be happy. Finally, I covered the rows with plastic tunnel cloches to keep the soil warm, helping the seeds to germinate.

Carrots can also be grown in containers of compost, try using large plant pots or get creative and thrifty by using things like trugs, barrels, crates, toy boxes, car tyres or emptied water butts with the bottom removed. As long as the soil is light and the container is reasonably deep (don’t forget drainage holes), just place it in the sunshine and you’ll be pulling carrots of your own.

Planting Fruit Trees

Planting Fruit Trees Collage

Yesterday we planted new fruit trees in the orchard, much later than we’d planned due to weather conditions making the ground too boggy to dig. There are 9 mature fruit trees that make our orchard so enchanting (especially now, as the blossom starts to show), but we wanted to add a few trees of our own.

We planted Granny Smith apple, Scrumptious apple, Cox’s Orange Pippin apple and my absolute favourite, Bramley’s Seedling apple. This will become a very large tree and who knows, perhaps our future grandchildren will climb it someday! We have space for another Greengage or two which we are looking to buy soon, sadly our old Greengage tree is leaning dangerously and crumbling away at the base, so this will probably have to be removed at some point due to it being a potential hazard.

Plot of Jam

This is plot 29E, a half plot on our village allotments and 3 plots in a line away from ours (can you see our blue shed in the distance?).

allotment plot

The previous gardener sadly passed away and the plot left unworked for a long time, crops such as shallots, leek and garlic are still in situ, waiting patiently to be harvested.

shallots

Nobody wants plot 29E so we’ve agreed to take it on. We plan to grow soft fruit bushes, rhubarb, fruit canes and strawberries, also pollinator friendly flowers dotted about here and there to attract bees and butterflies.

making strawberry jam

I enjoy making jams, they’re very popular with our family and friends. Our garden smallholding is too boggy and shady in places to grow fruit bushes and canes successfully (although our orchard is amazing), the allotment is perfect with its open sunny position.

blackcurrant jam

Recycled wood will be used to make raised beds, seeing as the plot will be permanently planted it shouldn’t be too much of a problem with the general care and weeding. I feel this is the ideal way to use this unwanted small plot, eventually it will help to keep our larder cupboard full of jams and offer wildlife a helping hand too.

Fairy Eggs

Fairy Eggs

I found 3 fairy eggs and 1 normal size egg in total during the first 2 weeks of the new rescue hens being here. Fairy eggs are tiny and yolkless eggs and are also known as witch eggs, fart eggs or wind eggs. They’re usually the result of a disturbed reproductive cycle or occur when a hen is coming back into lay after winter. A young pullet may lay a fairy egg just as she begins to lay for the first time but usually these first eggs contain yolk and are just small for a while before gradually increasing in size. As long as the hen appears to be healthy then there’s really nothing to be concerned about.

ex-caged hen

Both hens are growing new feathers now and taking a break from laying, which they thoroughly deserve.

Back on the Plot

rhubarb

The weather has been settled and sunny for many days now, a pleasant respite from the rain allowing many hours of work at the allotment to prepare the ground for sowing and planting. Rich made a couple of raised beds using the wood we recently recycled, our plot now pretty much finished with regards to the design and layout. Gone is the tarp covering the unused difficult area, the ground now workable.

blackcurrant bush

During a break from weeding and turning over the soil I noticed mounds of fresh lupin growth by the shed, the beautiful shaped leaves easily recognisable. Fat leaf buds on fruit bushes are beginning to burst open and crisp white broad bean flowers sparkle in the sunshine. A previously sleepy allotment, suddenly bursting into life.

lupin leaves

IMG_6151broadbeans Blog

Simple pleasures, just one of the reasons I enjoy gardening and the outdoors so much.

rhubarb crumble

After grafting at the allotment there’s nothing better than a warm serving of rhubarb crumble with a cup of tea, the first crumble of the year always tastes the best.

Allotment Addicts

Allotment Addicts

Allotment Addicts is a photo sharing group on Flickr, created by little old me. If you upload photos to Flickr and love taking photos of your allotment, seedlings, harvests and of course the shed, pop along and join Allotment Addicts group and share your photos with the world!

http://www.flickr.com/groups/allotmentaddicts/

Recycling and Chicken Therapy

feeding chickens

A shed business adjacent to the allotments allows us to take away their scrap wood, they’re happy to let us in the yard at the back to take what we need. Today we rescued some wood from a potential bonfire, which is where the wood ends up if nobody claims it. In the yard there’s a flock of free range hens, they belong to the owners of the shed business. They’re friendly girls and followed me everywhere, I must be a chicken magnet. I enjoyed feeding them little bits of grass, they stayed close and gobbled down earthworms sheltering under planks of wood as we removed it. Clever girls.

feeding chickens

Thanks to the kind folk at the shed business we have plenty of wood to make more raised beds for our allotment, and I enjoyed spending a bit of time with their chickens. It cheered me up a bit, I’ve been feeling low ever since losing Hermione (my Columbine hen) to a heart attack yesterday. She passed away in my arms and it was the most upsetting thing to witness. She appeared healthy prior to yesterday so it was a bit of a shock.

chickens dustbathing

columbine chicken

Goodbye my princess, our garden won’t be the same without you strutting around with your fabulous hair do x

Nature Can Be Cruel, Yet So Beautiful

bird nest

A couple of weeks ago, following a storm, I found a little bird nest.

bird nest

Thankfully empty (with no sign of eggs anywhere near) it lay there, upside down on the lawn, perfect and beautiful. A victim of the destructive gale force winds.

nest bird

It’s a miniature work of art, and I wanted to share its beauty through my photographs. Each piece of the nest carefully and expertly constructed, using natural materials of twigs, moss and leaves, with soft man-made fibres lining the centre.

bird nest

I got a little emotional when I spotted long black and tan dog hair entwined with the fibres, I recognised them instantly. Our boy, a German Shepherd who we lost suddenly last summer, lives on in this nest. And for this very reason, I’ll treasure it.

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