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 The Garden Smallholder on December 2, 2013
Today was beautiful, a welcome break from wet and windy weather that seems to be hanging around. We visited the allotment to harvest the remainder of the beets and to do a spot of weeding. There’s still a fair bit of work to be done before the real winter weather arrives, mainly harvesting, tidying and hand weeding. Oh, and garlic planting. Lots of garlic.
We sat for a while in the warm sunshine listening to the sounds of the allotment, observing the 2 minute silence at 11am. Then I noticed a Comma butterfly visiting the Field Scabious growing on our plot, a very welcome visitor. Going by the wing shape and condition I’m pretty certain our Comma visitor was male and from the summer brood, he will hibernate soon and be on the wing next spring with a bit of luck.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on November 10, 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 The Garden Smallholder 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 The Garden Smallholder 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 The Garden Smallholder on July 23, 2013
This year has been superb for strawberries. I’ve been picking large, super sweet fruits in great volumes at the allotment and giving away punnets to friends and neighbours to avoid waste. After doing a bit of research into the reasons why strawberries are so good this year, it seems the cool spring almost certainly played a part. Plants flowered later and had longer to put down roots. Because of a lack of sunshine up until now there was a longer gap between flowering and picking, fruit stayed on the plants for a longer period of time, absorbing extra nutrients, resulting in big, juicy and sweet fruits.
I have plenty of fruit to make jam, so that should keep me busy this week!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on July 9, 2013
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