I checked the bug box on the allotment shed yesterday, we now have a completely sealed cell (tube) which means there’s a good chance of eggs inside. Mason bees use mud to seal the entrance to their nest as you can see below, I didn’t have my camera to hand so I used my Apple iPad.
The weather has been utterly gorgeous, I planted sweetcorn, giant pumpkins and three varieties of courgette, then gave the whole plot a good soaking. I noticed the foxglove raised from seed is flowering now, I had no idea what colour the flowers would be but I’m pleased, they look gorgeous against the blue shed.
More iPad photos:
Lupins are slow to get going this year (just one in flower so far), but they will!
I planted courgettes in the bean bed (beans will be planted out soon), I use courgettes in this way as ground cover which cuts down on weeding, the courgette plants eventually shade bean roots as they grow, cutting down on watering.
Back to the plot today to plant sunflowers!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on June 5, 2013
We have some exciting news to share! Mason bees (Osmia rufa) are making nests inside the bamboo cane bug box, sited on the allotment shed. Mason bees are solitary and do not form colonies or produce honey. The Mason bee gets it name due to using mud in building nest compartments, rather like a stone mason constructing a house. After mating, males die and females begin collecting pollen and nectar to build nests. After laying her eggs (males at the front and females at the back), the female seals the entrance to the tubular nest using mud. Mason bees may nest inside reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects, some British species make their nests in empty snail shells. Luckily for us, 3-4 females have chosen to use our bug box.
If you look closely, you may just be able to see a couple of the mud-sealed nest entrances
The bug box is in full sun, sited approximately 5′ 8″ high, this is the first time the box has been used by bees. The bees were very calm considering we were about, using the shed and nearby area as we usually would. Mason bees are usually non-aggressive and will only sting if they are really threatened, ie being held between fingers. They would much rather get on with the job of building a nest rather than defending it.
We’re thrilled to be able to watch the bees, they’re brilliant little pollinators and very welcome on our plot. Plot 4 is certainly living up to its name – The Little Haven.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 27, 2013
Choosing to ignore mixed and confusing weather reports (along with a threatening sky on and off since the weekend), I decided to give our allotment shed a much-needed lick of paint. If you already follow me on Pinterest you will notice I have a ’thing’ for blue sheds.
Naturally, blue was the colour I had in mind, although I did toy with the idea of painting our shed seagrass green. I finally settled on a shade of baby blue and now the shed is cheery and a welcoming sight.
The little bird box had a makeover too!
The colour will also be a gorgeous backdrop for annuals that I love to grow in the raised bed surrounding the shed, such as shades of pink Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ and Sarah Raven’s ‘Bright Lights’ (deep orange and tangerine blooms, new for me this year). Sunflowers will dazzle against the baby blue (although I’m hoping at least one becomes a true giant and exceeds the shed height) and the fuzzy purple haze of perennial Verbena bonariensis will be even more striking. Foxgloves are almost ready to burst into flower and Lupins are not far behind.
Foxglove grown from seed, almost ready to flower
Potatoes are growing and require ‘earthing up’ frequently, so far (touch wood) we’ve managed to keep the burrowing bunny out of the potato bed by laying a sheet of wire mesh on the area of interest, weighted down by bricks, although this will need to be removed very soon. Strawberries are looking promising with lovely large flowers, blackcurrants and redcurrants are swelling nicely.
The rhubarb patch is looking incredible this year, we only planted it last year and it’s already trebled in size.
I’ve put a lot of hours in at the allotment since the weekend, I’m delighted with how neat and tidy the plot is looking.
A few days ago we managed to source more free wood, this means we can get on and work the unused part of the plot this year. All of our raised beds are made using wood no longer needed by a shed company located next to the allotment site, they’re delighted when the allotment holders come along and take the wood away, putting it to good use. I’m looking forward to seeing the plot change again soon, not only from our input but with summer on the way too.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 23, 2013
There’s a hole in my potato bed, dear reader, a hole. On my arrival to the allotment on Sunday morning (yesterday) I found this:
Rabbit hole in the potato bed
It wasn’t there Saturday.
Apparently, the rabbit fencing around the allotment site has been found to have a few ‘flaws’ recently. No kidding! I checked inside the hole for signs of life and found nothing, the hole didn’t appear to lead anywhere. I was beginning to wonder if this was the work of a very large rat, until I filled in the hole using the expertly tilled soil in a mound nearby, along with little round poops, courtesy of Peter Rabbit.
I guess a rabbit-proof fence is needed around our plot very soon. Oh the joys of allotmenteering!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 12, 2013
Yesterday I dragged our half-term-holiday-bored-teenagers to the allotment to help plant onion sets while I got on with some much-needed weeding. I highly doubt the onion rows are straight (they looked a bit dodgy to me), but I’ll settle for wonky rows.
I buy onion sets locally which is very convenient but the varieties available are limited, I’m happy enough with growing Sturon and Red Baron again this year, they always do well for me. Last year I had a go at growing Hercules onion instead of Sturon, some bulbs were a lovely size at harvest time but the rest were pretty average. It’s hard to judge properly because of a poor summer so I’ll give them another go next time they’re available.
Do you have a favourite variety of onion (seed or set)?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 11, 2013
Planting seed potatoes
We planted potatoes at the allotment yesterday, the weather was pleasant all weekend with Sunday being warm enough to leave our coats at home. Yay! Even though I dislike planting potatoes (I find it so dull), it felt good to be doing something other than talking about what we couldn’t get on with and moaning about the weather.
Dig, dig, dig
When we first got our allotment two sections of the plot were incredibly stubborn to dig. Correction, near on impossible. We broke a spade and fork, barely scratching the surface. Eventually we accepted defeat and covered the compacted areas with manure and pretty much ignored it for the rest of that year, using other areas of the plot instead.
Manure certainly helped to feed and lock moisture into the soil. Last year we tackled the areas again by digging in lots of compost to improve the structure, then we made two large beds and planted potatoes in order to break the soil apart further down. We had a good crop despite a poor summer and the soil improved considerably. Success!
Planting our potatoes yesterday was so much easier than it was last spring (still dull though), making all the effort we put in worthwhile. We’re growing a main crop variety called Sante this year (we usually grow Desiree), so we shall see how it performs and tastes.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 8, 2013
Autumn fruiting raspberries should be cut down to ground level to in February or March to encourage fresh growth
An allotment visit was needed today to cut the autumn fruiting raspberry canes down. Autumn raspberry varieties fruit on the current years growth, cutting all canes down to ground level during February or March helps to direct energy where it’s needed, encouraging fresh new growth (canes) from the base. The new canes will eventually bear fruit in late summer/autumn.
Cut each cane a couple of inches above ground level.
This is how your row of autumn fruiting raspberries should look after pruning
It was quite cold in the wind and raining on and off, apart from one other plot holder we were the only ones there.
Here’s a reminder on how and when to prune summer raspberries
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 16, 2013
I popped to the allotment plot early this morning and was pleased to see the garlic growing well, just one clove failed to sprout which is great considering it was left unchecked until now due to being busy with a house move. Hard frost the year before forced our garlic cloves out of the ground and we had to replant the lot. I was worried the same may happen again and had visions of garlic cloves sitting on top of the soil!
We still have around 30 bulbs left from last summers harvest to munch our way through, they’re hanging in our garden greenhouse on wires. I think a few bulbs will be heading to our neighbour the next time we give him a box of eggs from our hens! Do you have an allotment? If so what are your growing plans this year?
I really want to grow a successful pumpkin at our plot this year!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 7, 2013
I haven’t posted about our allotment for a while, here’s an overdue photo update on how our allotment plot is coming along.
The early days:
After a lot of hard work:
To recap, in April 2011 we (hubby and I) were offered a brand new plot at the village allotments. We spend quality time together at our allotment, working the plot and relaxing afterwards. The vegetable garden at home is very much mine, which is nice but I do enjoy hubby’s company at the allotment, sipping tea and chatting about our achievements so far. It’s been back-breaking at times but we’ve had a lot of laughs too.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on December 27, 2012
Here she is, all weedy and wonderful. A plot was offered to me at my village allotment on Good Friday, I jumped at the chance - who wouldn’t? What with waiting lists as long as 10 years in some places I feel ever so lucky to have an allotment plot so soon. You might be surprised to learn that my plot was in fact reserved beforehand but never claimed, I’m not complaining I just find it bizarre. I went along to the allotment the following day to choose between two previously reserved plots (yes, somebody else failed to claim a plot) and I’m now the proud slave to Plot 4.
I spent today, my first proper day as a plot holder digging and cursing the ground – it’s rock solid dry and a jungle of weeds. I’m now enjoying a glass of red wine to take the edge off my aches and pains - plot 4 is going to bury me under her by the time the year is through .
I’m loving every painful minute of it.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 24, 2011