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:
Broad beans growing happily (of course they are, I didn’t plant them!), sown by Mother Nature herself.
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…….
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.
Naughty, naughty rabbits!!!
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?
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on February 13, 2014
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.
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/
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on January 15, 2014
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 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!
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
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
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.
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on January 3, 2014
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!).
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on December 22, 2013
End of the year preparations are almost finished at the allotment, just a couple more beds to weed and lightly dig over and plot 4 will be ready to rest over winter. Time ran away with me a bit this year, luckily the weather has been very accommodating, allowing plenty of time to catch up and complete jobs that I’ve usually finished before now. There are plenty of carrots and parsnips left over to harvest, but these are being saved for our Christmas day dinner. Yum.
At the weekend I started planting garlic, usually I grow ‘Cristo’ but I couldn’t get it from my local supplier so I chose ’Germidour’ instead, a French variety well adapted to British growing conditions. I was drawn by the striking purple stripes along the sides of the bulbs, after splitting each bulb for planting I was amazed at the size of the cloves.
I space each clove by stretching my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil, it’s a rough planting distance but it works for me. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in, covering over with soil (make sure the pointy end of each garlic clove is facing upwards).
I use a wire mesh frame to cover the garlic bed, this stops birds and other allotment wildlife from disturbing the garlic. Once they sprout I remove the frame. Hopefully I’ll grow some whoppers!
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on December 2, 2013
This year I grew carrot varieties that I’ve never tried before. After looking at so many tempting choices, I settled on a main crop variety called ‘Flakkee’ and a yellow-skinned variety called ‘Jaune Obtuse du Doubs’, a French heirloom with a beautiful sweet taste. Both nice varieties and trouble-free to grow if you fancy a change from your usual favourites.
I’ve just realised, I don’t have a photo of the yellow carrots! If I get to the allotment this weekend I will grab one. They’re a lovely colour and look fantastic grated into a salad.
I’m looking forward to browsing seed catalogues and websites soon, I’ll probably order new varieties for next year. I quite enjoy the challenge and unpredictability of growing new things.
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on October 25, 2013
I intended to do this post in July. Family and pet loss forced blogging out of the window for a while, along with all sense of time. I couldn’t find any enthusiasm to visit the allotment, as a consequence some of my planned posts haven’t met the publish button. So here we are, late October. Why bother to blog about peas now? Well, these particular peas, in my humble opinion, deserve a mention. The variety is ‘Blauwschokker’ and they’re definitely on my list of crops to grow next year.
Deep purple pods with huge minty-green peas nestled inside, the plants grow very tall so you’ll need to grow them against something sturdy and high (I used 7 ft canes pushed into sheets of wire mesh, such as chicken or aviary wire). Stems and leaves are thicker and heavier than any other pea I’ve grown, with tendrils as thick as springs. Pods are easy to pick, thanks to the bold colour, and can be eaten as mange tout before the peas begin to swell. Eye-catching pink/crimson flushed flowers are large and could easily be mistaken for sweet peas, for that reason alone, a perfect addition for the allotment or veg garden.
A doddle to grow, these peas are very similar in size to marrowfat peas with an earthy, punchy flavour. Shell and mix with young broad beans, mash and smash with a fork or pestle and mortar adding a little olive oil and fresh mint, spread onto warm olive bread. Yum!
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on October 22, 2013
I love growing pumpkins for many reasons but harvest time has to be the best - certain pumpkins remind me of Cinderella carriages and I’m almost sad at having to chop the stalk and take them home. The snake-like plants are fantastic ground cover to keep weeding down throughout summer and the flowers are edible as well as pretty. This year I grew three varieties, ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ and ‘Baby Bear’ both from Mr Fothergills seeds and Atlantic Giant from T&M (just the one plant though, they are thugs!).
Overall a pleasing yield from just a few plants, I have a couple suitable for carving and the hens will never turn their beaks up at the chance to devour a pumpkin or two. I read elsewhere that feeding pumpkins to chickens is a good way to naturally worm your flock, apparently the coating on fresh pumpkin seeds paralyse internal worms. I don’t know if there’s any truth to this claim, have you ever heard of this? All I know is our hens get stuck into a pumpkin without any encouragement, stripping the fleshy insides and gobbling down the seeds.
The Atlantic Giant pumpkin I grew, sadly it began to rot before reaching epic proportions. It was well on its way to being a Cinderella carriage. Still, there’s always next year!
Sadly the Atlantic Giant pumpkin (I thinned down to just one fruit, aiming for size rather quantity) was a bit of a disappointment, it grew to a decent size but nowhere near the giant I envisaged, then it began to rot even though I took precautions against this by raising the pumpkin onto a pallet. Not a world record breaker but I did much better than last year and I won the fun competition I took part in with my neighbour who’s yet to see a fruit!
Certain pumpkin shapes and skins remind me of Cinderella’s carriage, like this one right at the front. Variety ‘Jack O’ Lantern’.
Did you grow pumpkins this year, did you manage to grow a giant? Any bloggers out there up for a fun competition to see who can grow the biggest next year?
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on October 21, 2013
I’m so proud of how the allotment looks now, it’s a far cry from the weedy patch of land it used to be and I certainly don’t miss the stubborn soil it came with.
Although I remember the aches and pains gained from sheer hard graft, sometimes it’s hard to visualise how the plot used to look as I casually fill the trug with fresh vegetables.
The strawberry patch and soft fruit bushes are really coming into their own now, I made some delicious jams recently to avoid a glut.
I try to make the allotment butterfly and bee friendly, I think it creates something beautiful to look at.
We’ve recently introduced a new compost bin, made using wood pallets lying around. They’re also handy for lifting pumpkin fruit from the soil to prevent rotting.
Yellow courgettes look good, taste good and are super easy to spot and harvest before they grow too large and turn watery, we have green courgettes (including a round variety) growing too and I’ve already missed a few. If this happens I simply cut them in half and give them to the hens to have a good peck at, they love them!
It’s going to be a good year for onions!
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on July 23, 2013
I checked the bug box on the allotment shed yesterday and found a ‘mud plug’ sealing the entrance to a tube, indicating a completed nest. 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 TheGardenSmallholder on June 5, 2013