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.

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.

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.

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

Hello Old Friend

allotment in winter

The allotment in winter, thanks to a mild but very wet winter, the weeds are still growing strong.

The weather continues to be dreadful, not the sort to be pottering about in gardens or allotments that’s for sure. Because of the weather I’ve avoided our allotment for weeks, today I made time to look around to check how everything was bearing up. Much to my surprise the shed still stands where we built it and our plot isn’t underwater. As I stood there examining everything, I felt that I, we, and all the other plot holders have been incredibly fortunate, the whole allotment site looks remarkably good considering. I noticed weeds growing happily, I didn’t get around to completely weeding every bed and I only covered the beds where I plan to grow potatoes. Now all I need is a little dry weather to sort this out, not a chance at the moment *rolls eyes*.

I snapped a few photos of the allotment using my phone:

self-sown broad beans in february

Broad beans growing happily (of course they are, I didn’t plant them!), sown by Mother Nature herself.

garlic february

Garlic looks great, I’m so pleased I put extra effort into weeding the garlic bed and topping it up with fresh compost and a sandy seed compost to help with drainage. I must have known…….

scabious flowering in february

Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Pink’ still flowering and showing no sign of stopping anytime soon, you’ve got to find room on your plot for a plant.

carrots eaten by wild rabbits

Naughty, naughty rabbits!!!

rhubarb patch

Timperley Early rhubarb looking great, a little frost nipped but strong and healthy.

I’ve missed our allotment, it’s like an old friend. I even miss the hurried fly by visits, you know, when life gets hectic. As it does. Roll on spring and drier weather. Please?

Mason Bees

allotment shed

Mason bees were attracted to our bee box at the allotment last May, it was fascinating watching them building nests within the hollow tubes. Mason bees are non-aggressive solitary bees, they are very small and do not sting unless really threatened (a sting is not usually painful and only females are capable). They do not swarm, bother people or produce honey, but they are prolific pollinators. Named because of their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood. Mason bees will also use handmade or purpose-built bee boxes to nest, hollowed out bamboo canes or tubes will attract them, drilled holes in wood blocks will attract them too.

mason bee

Nest building begins in spring, it’s a good idea to have a bee box in place beforehand if you’re thinking of providing a nesting site to attract them to your garden or allotment. Site bee boxes in a position that receives early morning sun, on a tree, post, wall or shed for example. Have a go at making your own Mason bee box or purchase a ready-made box suited to Mason bees. I particularly like these examples http://myfriendlygarden.co.uk/product-category/for-bees/

New Year Visit to the Allotment

Yesterday I went to the lottie, the sun was shining which was a lovely break from the heavy rain and damaging winds that have been hanging around lately, surprise surprise much the same today. After spending a couple of hours hand weeding and generally mooching about (as you do), I sat on our bench made from tree logs by the shed and enjoyed my sandwiches in the warm sunshine. It was so lovely I didn’t need to put my coat on. Looking around at my surroundings, my plot and others look as if they’re trying to wake up already.

broad bean plants

Broad bean plants growing happily in what was the pumpkin patch during summer.

Growing happily in the strawberry bed and pumpkin patch (the latter a tangled mushy mess) are broad bean plants. Probably the result of rodent or bird activities, I didn’t plant them but if I had they certainly wouldn’t survive to this stage (I don’t have much luck starting broad beans in autumn!). One plant is flowering. Will I be picking broad beans soon? I wonder….

Flowering broad beans in January!

Flowering broad beans in January!

I noticed Calendula ‘Flashback Mix’ flowering by the allotment shed, colourful small flowers entwined with grey skeleton stems left over from summer. We’ve seen just one hard frost so far this winter, obviously not enough to wipe these cheery little flowers out completely.

Calendula flowers hanging on in January

Calendula flowers hanging on in January

Remember the garlic I planted recently? Well, they’re poking through the soil already, soldiers standing to attention. The rhubarb patch is waking up too.

Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter

Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter

I’m a big fan of Timperley Early rhubarb, a super early variety great for forcing for an even earlier crop. I won’t lie, I was tempted to place my forcer over the crown but I’ll be patient and give my rhubarb another year to grow even stronger before inflicting greed and a terrible case of sweet tooth upon it.

Last Allotment Visit of the Year

parsnips

Today I went to the allotment to dig up parsnips for our Christmas Day meal, probably my last visit to the allotment before the new year arrives. The parsnips look and smell amazing, ‘Gladiator’ always does well for me.

The next few days ahead will keep me really busy but it won’t all be about Christmas, we have a special birthday to celebrate too, our daughter will be sweet 16 (which makes us feel old!).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,136 other followers

%d bloggers like this: