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.

Big Spawn Count 2014

common frogs mating

I’m so excited! I spotted this lovely couple in the wildlife pond early this morning, a pair of common frogs in a copulatory embrace called Amplexus. I rushed to the house to grab my camera before they disappeared. During our first spring living here we saw plenty of frog couples, but until now they had little choice but to use the large Koi pond, ending in disastrous results for the spawn.

The Koi pond

The Koi pond.

Just a few of our Koi

Just a few of our smaller Koi, the larger fish are approximately 2 feet in length.

wildlife pond

The wildlife pond in a sheltered position within the rockery, directly behind the Koi pond. A safe haven for the frog and newt community in our garden smallholding.

If this pair (or any others) spawn in the wildlife pond it will have a greater chance of becoming tadpoles, I’m especially happy because our wildlife pond is less than a year old. We decided to add an additional small pond to our garden not long after moving here, our  intention being to offer the already present frog and newt community a safe place to reproduce successfully.

Have you spotted any spawn where you are? Take part in this years Big Spawn Count and record your findings, the more people counting, the better the information to help provide more of an insight into the amorous lives of toads and frogs.

Anyone can take part in the Big Spawn Count by going to their garden or school pond, and counting the number of spawn present. You can print the form to help you complete the survey, please enter the results on-line afterwards.

http://www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/big-spawn-count/

I’ll be watching, will you?

The Big Allotment Challenge

allotment shed

Silver River Productions, a TV company based in London are currently in production for a BBC2 primetime gardening show ‘The Big Allotment Challenge’. The series follows a handful of talented amateur kitchen gardeners as they transform a plot of earth into a patch of beauty and reveal all the wonderful possibilities that can be unlocked from allotment growing. Kitchen gardening and growing your own produce is an amazing way to live and this series celebrates that.

They are looking for contestants to feature in the series, those who have the skill and dedication and who could dig their way to victory and be crowned the winner of The Big Allotment Challenge. People who can cultivate the perfect carrot, make their green tomatoes into award winning chutney and turn their dahlias and sweet peas into floral arrangements fit for a Queen.

So whether you’re an allotment holder, a city living window box grower or a gardening enthusiast, they want to hear from you!

It couldn’t be easier to apply, all you need to do is email grow@silverriver.tv for an application form.

Good luck!

Onion Sets in Module Trays

onion sets planted early

I usually plant my onion sets straight into the ground in spring, covering with a mesh frame to keep the birds off until they’ve sprouted and developed a good root system to anchor them in. I harvest a decent crop but I do get a number of smallish bulbs despite my soil being well nourished.

onions drying

Red onions drying

Today I planted half my onion sets in module trays filled with compost (‘Red Baron’ and ‘Stuttgarter Giant’), growing them on in my unheated greenhouse. The other half will be planted out into the ground, in the usual way. The idea is to give half the sets a bit of a head start, an experiment really.

onion sets planted in module trays

onion sets in module trays

I’m curious to see if this makes any difference to the overall size of bulbs come harvest time, compared to the sets planted straight into the ground a month or so later.

onions

I’ll let you know how I get on.

The Cut Flower Patch: Grow Your Own Cut Flowers All Year Round, Book Release and Blog Giveaway!

The Cut Flower Patch jacket

I’m excited to reveal the following book release, published March 2014 by Frances Lincoln (www.franceslincoln.com | @Frances_Lincoln) priced £20.00. I’m also hosting a giveaway for this book, one lucky reader will win a copy! Yay! Read on…..

It’s a delight to have a home filled with fresh flowers, and in this new take on the subject, Louise Curley shows that a cut flower patch is the most economical  and eco-friendly way to enjoy cut flowers. Using her experience from her own cutting patch on her allotment Louise explains how, even with a small amount of space, you can grow plants to give you cutting material throughout the year.

The book describes how to embrace seasonality with cutting material using spring bulbs, summer flowers and autumn seed heads and winter hedgerow foraging for year-round arrangements.

Sustainability and caring for the environment are themes, whether it’s using locally coppiced wood for plant supports or using jars and tins from the recycling box for vases. Louise’s selection of tried and tested cut flowers are beneficial to wildlife too.

The Cut Flower Patch will help you get the most from your patch with guidance on selecting the right spot, looking after your soil and how and when to sow. There is practical advice on maintaining the plot and how best to look after your flowers once picked. It it completed by a selection of flower arranging tips and sample arrangements as well as ideas on where to find great containers, planting plans and a helpful year planner.

About the author:

Trained horticulturist Louise Curley writes for the Guardian, Grow Your Own, The Simple Things and Gardens Illustrated magazines. She started her Wellywoman Blog in 2011 and was finalist in the ‘best blog’ category at the Garden Media Guild Awards in 2012. She gardens organically and has kept an allotment for four years on which she grows all her cut flowers.

To order The Cut Flower Patch at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p (UK only, please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG101

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: LBS Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3RB. Please quote the offer code APG101 and include your name and address details.

Win a copy!

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this fantastic book (I have one and I love it) is leave a comment saying you’d like to be included in the draw. Giveaway competition closes midnight, March 12th 2014. Please make sure your email address is valid and entered correctly, the lucky winner will be notified via email by Frances Lincoln Limited. If the winner fails to make contact with Frances Lincoln, I will draw a new winner. I’m sorry, the competition is only available to UK addresses only.

With thanks to Jessica at Frances Lincoln Limited.

Room in the Chicken Coop

I put my name down for more rescue hens from Little Hen Rescue, the rescue took place over the weekend and I made the short journey to collect them on Sunday.

Sky img_5851MeadowBLOG

I’m gaining their trust very quickly by hand feeding and talking softly, allowing them to come to me in their own way and time. I plan to integrate them carefully with our other two rescue hens soon, once the usual hissy fits have subsided I will update again with new photos.

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?

Let the Chitting Begin

chitting seed potatoes

At last, it feels like I’m doing something productive again. Laying seed potatoes out in trays or egg boxes to chit (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting) really is the start of the growing year for me. Some say chitting potatoes isn’t necessary, I get stupidly excited about chitting mine so I’ll carry on doing it regardless.

This year I’m planning to grow Charlotte (a salad variety) and Desiree main crop. They’re firm favourites of mine and always seem to do well on my plot.

desiree potatoes growing

By the way, I think potato flowers are utterly gorgeous…..

potato flowers

What are you planning to grow in your potato bed this year? If it ever stops raining!

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