24 November 2007

Long time no visit!

After about a month of not managing to get down to the plot, I took advantage of the bright sunny (but bloody freezing!) day to get down there and plant my garlic. Things were looking very desolate, most of the tree has been chopped down (and still trying to decide whether the rest should go), the leaf basket had blown over, even the weeds have stopped growing and there was still ice in the bath at 2pm in the afternoon. Sadly the hedge between me and the neighbours is still going strong.

So ignoring all the advice I took a couple of bulbs of garlic I had grown this year, from the original Thermidrome from the Organic Garden Catalogue I'd ordered last year. Good sized cloves so hopefully get some good plants. Have planted slightly less than last year so should have a slightly more manageable crop, although I have been supplying most of the family in garlic and numerous other people in garlic to plant.

The recent manure supply was put to good use as well as I covered the potato bed with manure. It's been dug over some time ago and has a few bits of buckwheat growing on it, but I have decided to go with the plan that the worms will take the goodness into the soil for me instead of digging it in. Watch this space for results...

I managed to dig over a bit more ground and do some general clearing up. My 'gate' had disappeared (been destroyed by the hedge cutter in the yearly trim courtesy of the council) so I put a few twigs over the entrance. Took down the poles for the beans, the poor runner beans only got as far as the first couple of flowers before the frosts killed them off.

The next job is to reposition some of the plants (rhubarb, comfrey, globe artichokes to name a few) and carry on digging. The Brussels look fairly pathetic and I may get some marble sided sprouts if I'm lucky (probably cost a fortune as 'baby veg' in the supermarket!), but luckily the neighbours have plenty and gave me a pocket full! Need to move the 'sticks' I've been saving for beans, etc for about the 3rd time - this time they're going in the corner I've never going to use thanks to tree roots in the hope I don't have to move them yet again. Then I can get digging all the veg beds and hopefully use up the scaffolding boards to divide the beds up.

Blatant Advertising
Some Amazon ads have appeared at the side of the blog. These links are to our association account so that it earns commission on anything ordered via them for our Association.

21 October 2007

A 'proper' allotment

Managed to visit a few times this week and am now the proud owner of a large pile of leaves and an even larger pile of manure!

The valley below the allotments is a great source of leaves and I have added about 10 compost bags full of leaves to the leaf mould basket now. Which when compressed down fills a surprisingly small space, and no doubt will make a significantly smaller amount of leaf mould.

My leaf supplier

Saturday I shared a delivery of cow manure for the local farm with my allotment neighbour Dan. The farm is where I regularly buy our meat from and has a policy of rearing their animals using non-intensive methods that "forbids the use of growth promoters and antibiotics". Much credit to the tractor driver for first managing to reverse onto the lane and then actually getting as far down as my plot to dump it all - but I guess when you're driving a tractor you don't care much about overgrown hedges scratching the paintwork!

The farm fortunately has a huge supply of the stuff which has obviously been around for sometime. Now allotments are very popular again, they're getting through it. Ours was still last years stuff though, which you could tell by how good it looked, and more importantly how little it smelled! Ah who'd have thought I'd be sitting here raving about cow manure...

It's all piled up at the (newly cleared) top end of the allotment. It does look fairly well rotted down, but still some straw in parts of it. Can I use this now to add to empty beds or should I wait for it to rot down further? Any advice greatly received.

In between collecting leaves and shifting manure I've also done a bit of tidying up. Note to self, try and keep on top of the weeds when they are small...! Spent a couple of hours weeding and digging over the bed where I grow the daffodils and tulips, and planted some more in there. Attempted to control the mint in this bed too - no laughing at me next summer when it takes over again!

Closing the stable door...
My miniature Brussels are still surviving despite the attentions on the local pigeons and pheasants, and in an attempt to actually get something off them I have constructed some bird scarers (tip from Grow Your Own magazine) using some string and the collection of naff CDs from the newspaper. This may be a little late in the day for them, but it we get anything off the plants they will have done the job.

Finally managed to get one bag of the 'home grown' compost down to the site to use as a mulch for the raspberries - now sadly at an end with the frosts. Could do with another bag as I had to spread it quite thin, but it will do until the next visit. Fortunately I have a few more bags at home to add round the raspberries and also the strawberries - although they need weeding first. Planting the strawberries between the comfrey and rhubarb doesn't seem like such a good idea now either. Still undecided on which will be moving.

The courgettes and pumpkins have now been added to the compost but I'm still hanging on to the sweetcorn. Not sure why as it's obviously not going to do anything now the frosts have arrived, it's just one of the few things still growing (well it's alive, maybe no longer growing). The Jerusalem Artichokes have flowered as well, and I discovered just what happens when you leave them in the ground on a walk to the local cafe the other day. I could be wrong and the allotment holder really likes them, but it doesn't look like the site has been cultivated much recently. Difficult to judge the distance from the picture but I'd guess this 'row' is about 15m long!

The green manures have been mixed. The buckwheat fed the pigeons and pheasants nicely, but the crimson clover did eventually grow well. I'm probably supposed to dig it in now, but I haven't got anything to put in this bed yet so will leave it for now. Never got round to planting any Hungarian Grazing Rye though and probably too late now.

The plan for the winter is to get as much as possible dug over and to add various nutrients to the soil to improve it. One thing I have noticed is that most of the stuff I've grown has been quite small and I'm sure it's down to a lack of soil improvement. I'm looking at getting in some volcanic rock dust - anyone used it? - together with the usual manure, lime and the seaweed meal I've got left into the appropriate beds. I will be planting some garlic shortly, and possible some broad beans but not sure if I'll get enough space cleared to get them in.

7 October 2007

Autumn is definitely here

The odd cold night (which leads me to suspect the sweetcorn are never going to fill out and that the runner beans may have left it a little late to start flowering now!) and lots of leaves falling from the trees means autumn is now with us. To take advantage to these I have 'salvaged some of the materials on the allotment and 'created' (some may say bodged!) a leaf mould basket.

Last years leaves (just a small bag from off the plot) still have some rotting down to be down so were added first before I left for the valley below with two large bags. Fortunately the valley road below is lined with 700 lime trees and has plenty of leaves to spare! OK so leaves from the roadside may not be ideal but that's the problem living in the middle of the city.

The French beans (Cherokee Trail of Tears) that have finally started producing beans are proving a big hit at home with the family - the wife loves them, the kids eat them and the mother in law declared them 'the best beans I'd ever eaten'! So will definitely be growing them again next year. Sadly never around long enough to get any photos! I can't help but wonder how well they would have done if it wasn't for all the floods.

My pumpkin plants seem to be dying so I picked the two pumpkins that looked ready. I'm hoping they are packed full of flavour given the size of them...

There are a couple more pumpkins left on the plants which still seem to be surviving so will leave them and see what happens. At least the two that have been picked are the perfect size for two small children to carve and carry around come Halloween ;>)

Red Onion Marmalade
Since I wasn't able to get down to the plot very much in the previous month, I thought I'd look at using up some of the onions in the kitchen. After some searching - well very little really it was the first one listed on Google! - chose the recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine. It tastes pretty good (he says modestly!) but thought it might be a bit stickier.

Next up on the preserving is spiced apple chutney (from one of Nigella Lawson's books). My grandad has lots of apple trees we raid at this time of year, Mum and Dad are never going to eat the chillies on the chilli plant I gave to them to look after, and we've still got plenty of onions.

Have bought some more tulip and daffodil bulbs to plant down the allotment. They were a real incentive to keep going when not much else was happening this spring. And hopefully this time I'll make it down to pick some of them to bring home. Next week the whole family will also be planting daffodils for my grandmother who passed away last week. She loved her garden and we're scattering her ashes round one of the trees in sight of the house and then planting a bulb each.

1 October 2007

Is that the top of my allotment I see?

The site had a working day to clear up rubbish from the plots - most of them having being 'inactive' for many years other than as a dumping ground. Essentially this working day consisted of 4 large skips, plus tea and bacon sandwiches.

Many exhausting hours later, I can see the hedge at the top of the allotment! I could barely drag myself off the plot at the end of the day, and the photos were in fact taken the following day. Thanks to my labourer for coming over to help out. The next big job is to fill the newly found space with a load of manure.

Lack of updates
As the nights have drawn in, I've not had time to get down to the plot in the evenings any more. Mrs D has had another knee operation as well so is currently out of action again. All in all this has meant little time to see what's happening down on the allotment. But to summarise, lots of weeds have grown, the remains of a dead chicken were left on one of my beds (although whatever left it there came back later and finished it off!) and the pheasants and pigeons have feasted on my buckwheat.

Still getting the odd courgette and a few raspberries. The parsley is doing really well, just wish I'd planted some more coriander. The Jerusalem artichokes are now starting to flower, and must be about 8-10 foot tall - seem to remember should have cut the tops out before they got to this stage...!

The flowers (don't know what they are, any suggestions?), I put in from home are doing well and attractive hoverflies. One of the plans for autumn is to create more wildlife friendly areas - after trashing the wilderness they were all enjoying before I took over the allotment.

29 August 2007

There goes summer

And somehow I seem to have missed it.

Having all but given up on attempting to grow anything else this year I've been busy working out what to do with the beds (courtesy of some Garden Planner software) and getting started with some of the preparation of these. And this is (roughly) what the current plan for the allotment is, sorry no labelling:

The first bed sorted was the one where the garlic grew - near the top right of the plan. The soil wasn't so bad there and I put some of the parsley thinned out from another bed in there and sowed Crimson Clover in the rest of the bed, which is now coming through.

Having decided to go with the terraced approach to utilise the space better the 'beds' will now be approximately 3.5 x 4m, using one of the scaffolding boards to walk across the soil. The first bed has now been dug over and I've put the boards roughly where I want them, and I've planted Buckwheat in there. The soil on this side of the allotment is very fine and looks like it could do with some serious improvement, hence the first step with the green manures. Here is the first bed/terrace - apologies for the pictures looking like they were taken during the night, but it's starting to get dark early these days!

There's still a load of stuff that needs burning, and I did have a small bonfire on Tuesday that quickly went out as I wasn't really paying attention to it... A much larger, more successful fire followed on Wednesday! Very satisfying and warm, beginning to get colder at night too! I'm beginning to see the end of the stuff that is left to burn.

Despite the apparent lack of anything growing this week I've still managed to harvest 6 courgettes, a large bunch of flat leaf parsley, a large bunch of two different types of mint (both of which were free - one from the organic course I did earlier in the year, the other I 'inherited' on the allotment and will probably be cursing for many years to come as it attempts to take over the allotment!), a big bunch of sweet peas, about 6 raspberries and 1 (yes, that's one!) French bean. Having long since given up on the beans they've managed to find the stakes I put in half heartedly a couple of months back and are growing very well now!

The sweetcorn also appears to be attempting to form some cobs as well (despite me covering in ash every time I have a bonfire) and the pumpkin, whilst not much bigger is turning orange as well. The rhubarb looks like it may well try and take over the allotment next year, but the Jerusalem artichokes are giving it a good go already and are well over 8 foot tall.

I've also managed to acquire a supply of apples, plums and raspberries in a couple of weeks (from my grandad), bags full of runner beans and chillies from Mum and Dad - having grown the chilli plant for them originally, but they have a greenhouse whereas mine are doing well to still be alive outside. Chopped up one of the chillies and put on the pizzas the other night, and they are quite hot! I guess the name Ring of Fire should have given me a clue...

When we go to raid the orchard at my grandparents in September, we will be making spiced apple chutney with apples from the grandparents, chillies from the parents and onions from the allotment.

One Year Old
1 September will be one year since we took on the allotment - and started this blog. Looking back at the posts from last year it's clear much has been achieved, at least in terms of land clearance. Mrs D's knee problems have meant I've done the vast majority of the work myself and the kids haven't been able to get down there as much as we'd hoped. Of course the weather has been fairly awful this summer, so that hasn't helped either.

Looking at the successes in the past year garlic stands out as the one thing that grew really well, and we still have a kitchen full of the stuff. What we learnt from this? Not to plant so much this year! We've had crops of a number of different fruits and vegetables, and although they've been limited in some circumstances it's always seemed a bonus to harvest them.

The fruit has largely established itself very well and hoping this will pay dividends in next (and subsequent) years. Beans and carrots have been very disappointing, but hopefully a lot of this was due to the weather.

Looking forward to the next year!

8 August 2007

That cucumber looks a bit round to me!

So the cucumbers I was growing up some supports on the plot turn out to be pumpkins! Obviously there appears to be some sort of a labelling problem that I should attempt to rectify next year, but they do look quite similar plants in my defence.

What I thought they were....

How they turned out...

The supports have now gone and they are now growing apace along the ground, with the pumpkins resting on some straw.

The site got hit by potato blight, but somehow I managed to avoid this. Mainly by growing very few and having dug they up shortly before it appeared. The yields weren't great - something to do with poor soil preparation I think - but the Pink Firs did look great and are currently challenging for first place in the site 'unusual veg' competition!

Burn, burn, burn
Now we've managed a few dry days in a row I've been taking the opportunity to get rid of some of the hedge that I've cut down some time ago, and other assorted non-compostable waste. Several bonfires later I still seem to have a huge pile of stuff to burn ;>( And having somehow broken my loppers (probably shouldn't have bought some cheaper ones from Wickes in the first place), it's taking a long time to chop up the bigger pieces to burn. Best hope that the dry weather keeps up.

What to do?
As I'm harvesting this years' crops I'm not planning on putting anything in to replace them. I'm concentrating on preparing te site for next year. Or I would be if I could decide how to divide up the plot. The fruit bed is mainly sorted and actually looking quite good - i.e. weed free! - and we're managing a few raspberries now and again. The veg area though is still undecided. I can't decide whether to terrace the allotment with wide beds, using the remaining scaffolding boards to walk across the soil so as not to compact it, or to go for smaller raised beds with paths between them. I'm leaning towards the former as it (a) easier to construct and (b) gives a greater planting area.

Green Manures
After the rains and all the water that has washed over the allotment, there probably aren't many nutrients left in my soil :>( So I've bought a few different green manures to plant to try and bring the soil back to life a bit. I bought Crimson Clover, Buckwheat, Hungarian Grazing Rye and Phacelia Tanacetifolia from Garden Organics. Actually I bought 3kg of Buckwheat and Hungarian Grazing Rye to share amongst fellow allotment holders and keep the costs down.

I sowed some of the crimson clover last night and am currently working out where to sow some of the Buckwheat and Phacelia Tanacetifolia. I chose the Buckwheat and Hungarian Grazing Rye as they will fit anywhere in the rotation system, and the Rye is winter hardy as well.

21 July 2007

Why does it always rain on me?

So managed to get down for the first time in ages to survey the growth of the weeds. Lovely sunshine, so it started throwing it down with rain - again. Managed to shelter under the tree to keep the worst of it off and took this crap photo of the rainbow...

Attempting to locate the crops in amongst the weeds I decided to take the entire pea harvest at once - all three pods... The peas took the full impact of the flooding on the plot, the second sowing not bothering to make at appearance at all. The broad beans next to them faired little better, they were still standing but had almost entirely been eaten by bean weevils. The French and runner beans have managed to get up to almost 10cm tall. Be lucky to see anything from them ;>( The sweet peas next to them rallied slightly and I manged to pick a few to keep Mrs D happy, who also had the peas as well.

Continuing the harvest I took home a solitary shallot, mainly because it was in danger of being washed away. Hopefully I'll still get some onions and shallots later, if they don't' start rotting since they are mainly lying on the floor now. Finally I picked a few sprigs of mint, which I didn't plant but hey you've got to take what you can get this year! Finally managed to find a few raspberries in the hedge along the lane back to the car.

So what's to look forward to?
Still in the ground are some potatoes. Dug a few up a couple of weeks back and they were very small, when everyone else has been complaining how big their spuds are...! The sweetcorn is still existing, not growing much, but it's still alive. The cucumbers appear to be doing OK, made some triangular supports for them to grow up and tied them up. Quite a few flowers and one or too small fruits appearing. The butternut squash don't look so healthy but just about managed to hold of despite the slug attacks. The pumpkin I'm not convince that it will be so lucky ;>( The courgettes are hanging on it there as well and a decent run of good weather (OK anything slightly warmer and less wet) should see some good results.

In the fruit bed, hopefully get some raspberries later on and the rhubarb is looking good for next year. Strawberries have had their hair cut for the year and hoping for bigs things from them next year. I have been out performed in this department by my sons strawberries growing at home in a pot, well he has the edge on quantity, but mine definitely taste better. Who said competitive Dad?!

So essentially I've given up on planting much more in an attempt to be better prepared for next year, by starting some digging and manuring of the bed where the garlic was in preparation for some Hungarian grazing rye over the winter. Speaking of garlic, since I've been confined to the house with all the rain I've been learning how to plait it:

I have a dream
I have been cutting down the monstrous hedge at the bottom of the allotment in an attempt to see if it will be possible to construct a polytunnel on the brick base. I have been to see the local Organic Guru (who gave the course I went on a while back) as he has several polytunnels constructed in many different ways. Having picked up a few tips and taken numerous photos (a selection below), the next job is to see if it is feasible. Firstly I have to pursuade the allotment officer to give permission then see if it is feasible (or possibly vice versa!), and then get my Dad to build it ;>) Well he is retired, always telling me what to do on the allotment and I am a project manager so I'm used to telling people to do things!

"Allotment Chief"
A while back (December last year) I was having a good moan about the state of things on the allotments and after writing to the local area panel we were lucky enough to be given a small grant. Not wanting the responsibility of deciding how to spend it all myself on the entire site I decided to find out about how to start an association for the site. Some time later we have an association and my 'reward' for starting the whole process was to be elected Chair of the association. Which just goes to show you don't actually need any gardening knowledge to get these posts. We now have another small grant in and can now afford two skips for the site (150ish plots) and have just started recruiting members - a bargain at £5, which includes membership of the NSALG. And you don't have to have a plot on site to join up, so if anyone wants to become a member send me a fiver ;>)

A new neighbour
My allotment neighbour at no. 17 has left town, so has passed on her plot to someone else. It was all her fault that I ended up getting a plot on the site and we've had many chats through (and about!) the hedge so sorry to see her go. Hopefully she'll be setting up her own blog so we can keep an eye on what each other is doing from afar. The new neighbours seem keen just as keen though, well almost, they've not mentioned the idea of camping on their plot yet!

3 July 2007

Too much of a good thing?

Fortunately we were spared more heavy rain at the weekend so during a break in the rain I took the opportunity to dig up the rest of the garlic as it appeared to be going to seed - small cloves forming further up the stem. So the full harvest in amounted to 54 bulbs of the stuff, in varying sizes.

Ok we like garlic, but I'm not sure we get through one bulb a week! Seven are so far accounted for, one to the childminder and six bartered for a book, but as you can imagine we have garlic drying all over the place inside due to the lovely summer weather we're having.

Having just got all the garlic up and the heavens opened again and I got soaked, despite taking refuge under the tree. Fortunately it was a short shower and quite warm so I dried off reasonably quickly whilst I picked the broad beans. Not many and quite small in size, but tasty. Some of them had been eaten, by what looked like bean weevils - one of them did a runner before I had a chance to get it on camera but from memory and a quick Google search they look like bean weevils to me.

Also propped up the Jeruslem artichokes that had taken a bit of a battering in the winds and rain with some stakes, added some half hearted stakes for the beans and generally ignorred all the weeds. The beans are doing very badly due to all the flooding and bird attacks, hence the half hearted staking. The few strawberries left had gone rotten or been attacked by slugs, but there do appear to be some raspberries forming. One of my two remaining pumpkin plants had been snapped off in the winds as well, so another good week on the allotment. Maybe next year I'll just grow garlic ;>)

Whilst quiet down there (I don't thin too many people are motivated to go down the allotment during the current rains) I did have the robin below for company:

27 June 2007

Mother Nature 2 Allotment Holder 0

And looking at the forecast for the weekend, I think she's going for a hat-trick ;>(

The runner beans and French beans have all but given up trying to grow, the broad beans are just about hanging on in there as are the Jerusalem artichokes, but only after I straightened them up again.

I dug a new 'flood channel' in an attempt to divert the water away from the play area and old greenhouse that keep flooding. I had to relocate several onions, well they were hanging on in there not quite being washed away so thought I'd give them another chance. In an attempt to stop the water from coming onto the plot, I dug out the path leading to the plot to try and keep the water on the top side of the path hoping to keep it flowing past the allotment. In addition, I put some stones and bricks at the entrance to the plot to stop some of the water coming in.

However, given what parts of Sheffield have been through in the past few days all these problems don't really seem that important. The allotment site is on a steep hill overlooking Rivelin Valley that leads into the Sheffield, so the water runninf down the site ends up in the river in the valley that caused some of the flooding not far away from the site.

On the positive side...
We have had well over a dozen strawberries from the plants put in only a couple of months back. And I have to say they taste amazing! We went strawberry picking at Whirlow Farm at the weekend and the strawberries didn't even come close to the taste of ours - they did make good strawberry ice cream though!

We have 20+ garlic bulbs drying in the kitchen! Fortunately the house has stopped smelling quite so much, either that or we have become immune to it. I'm not sure how to break it to Mrs D that there's almost as many still in the ground... You might wonder quite what we're going to do so much garlic? Something I've just beginning to address now! I've bartered 6 bulbs for a book written by a friend - Pre-School Out and About. She probably got the better of the deal, but she did pay to publish the book herself!

We had a few potatoes too, many because the soil was being washed away from around them. Bit small but nice all the same.

Oh well, maybe better news next time.

15 June 2007

Rain, rain go away

It was all going so well. Ok, so a bit behind intended schedule what with Mrs D being in hospital earlier in the year, but quite happy with progress really. Showed off the allotment to a group of people on the local organic gardening course on Monday night - didn't get home 'til gone 10pm! - and thought must pop down to pick the strawberry crop (all three of them!) in a day or two.

Pretty much since mid afternoon Tuesday it has been raining. But I was passing the site today on the way to the local farm shop, so I thought I'd just check to see if the strawberries had survived... The lane the plot is on was a river! I was no exaggeration to say that thousands of gallons of water were pouring off the hill (presumably having passed through numerous other allotments) and down the lane. Sadly most of this appeared to be flowing into our allotment...

Most of the left hand side of the allotment was being flooded, completely water logging the peas, beans and potatoes. Some of the onions and shallots didn't look so good, but the water was draining away or had found a definite channel by then. It was collecting nicely in the two new ponds/swimming pools where the play area and old greenhouse used to be.

I was truly shocked at the sheer amount of water there and went back this afternoon with the camera to capture this, and see if there was anything I could do. On the plus side there was a lot less water. Don't get me wrong there was still far more than you'd ever want to see running down your allotment...

I took a few photos, which don't really show just how much water there is.

The lane our plot is on:

The view through the 'gate':

There used to be beans and sweet peas here:

Attempting to divert some to the water tank - i.e. making the best of a bad day:

Looking on the positive side, the site is on the side of a mountain so it drains well, so fingers crossed...

10 June 2007

First Produce!

Spinach, not necessarily everyone's favourite vegetable, but when it's the first thing you get to eat off your allotment it's amazing how good it tastes! Mrs D incorporated it into her veggie lasagne, and very good it was too.

The first lot of spinach (Matador) is rapidly going to seed now, but there's still another half a row in so hopefully get another bag full before that goes to seed.

I hate scaffolding boards!
Matt from a couple of allotments away managed to source a load (70+) of old scaffolding boards. These were delivered to the site yesterday (Saturday), possibly the hottest day of the year so far. Let's just say with the slope on the site, I was more than a little tired when we'd all moved them to the various plots for making raised beds. I have to confess I didn't even think about starting to make any raised beds yesterday!

I put weed control membrane round the strawberries and covered them with netting in the hope that I can actually get to eat the ripening strawberry before the rabbits/mice/pigeons/take your pick get there first. Then retired home for a long shower and to rest my aching back.

To finish, a picture from home of two damsel flies, using the top of the kids sandpit as a pond to lay their eggs - I'm assuming that's what they're doing, but if anyone else knows better...

4 June 2007

Weeds everywhere!

Evening Visits
I've decided that the best time to visit at the moment is in the evenings when the kids are tucked up in bed and their Mum is usually found in the bath. Everyone seems happy with that arrangement - well what the kids don't know about won't hurt them! And to be honest the growth of nettles and brambles makes it a bit hazardous down there for small people at the moment.

Below shows the plot looking down from just inside the 'gate' (OK where the gate used to be - it having fallen apart a few weeks back).

The next photo shots where most of the mess still remains! I like to think of this as the 'wildlife haven.

Plants and planting
Due to the erratic nature of visits and planting whilst Mrs D was in and out of hospital, not all the planting is going as well as it should be. The Leeks (Bandit and Pandora) I planted in toilet roll tubes were a disaster, they were either eaten by snails or drowned in the heavy rains a few weeks back. The Globe artichokes started off well but again were getting savaged by slugs and snails. These were still salvageable and moved to the allotment where they look a bit sickly but still alive at least. Beans (Canadian Wonder and Cherokee Trail of Tears) have been planted. Those planted in toilet roll tubes at home have been doing well and have managed to survive (to date) attacks from wildlife - famous last words, they''re surviving but something has been eating them. The Brussels (Seven Hills and Groninger) plants survive the attacks at home and again have survived (again famous last words, half of them have been completely eaten), mainly thanks to the mini polytunnel for the and some well placed twigs for the . They now have netting covering them...

The strawberries have also been attacked - grrrr! Something has been pulling off the small green strawberries that have formed to date. These are now largely covered by two of the mini poly tunnels and on the next visit will have netting added as an extra precaution.

And as for the weeds... Spent the best part of an hour and a half there the other night, just pulling out the weeds around the stuff that is growing. Hand weeding is apparently best, which is just as well since I broke the hoe... Well to be fair it used to belong to Mrs D's grandad who died in his mid-90s over 5 years ago now, so it was getting on a bit. Hopefully it's not beyond repair though.

I have various squash (pumpkins, butternut squash and courgettes), broccoli and sweetcorn growing at home, not yet ready to be planted - which is just as well as I don't have the space

So all in all a bit of a frustrating time. More photos of progress below:

Brussels pre-savaging by birds/rabbits/slugs/take your pick really. Now completely covered in netting

View of the fruit/perennial bed. Lavender in the foreground, with comfrey to the left. Small plants behind the lavender are globe artichokes, they were being savaged by slugs at home so figured they'd be better off in the ground. Behind these are the strawberries, followed by rhubarb, then raspberries, and gooseberries. Beyond these to the left of the picture is the Jerusalem Artichokes and garlic behind these.

Broad beans in flower, planted late but seem to be doing OK at the moment - only a matter of time I'm sure.

18 May 2007

Some more pictures

First visit for a while, managed to plant some beans and carrots (to make up for the no show of an earlier sowing) and do a bit of weeding. As you'll see from the pictures, not enough weeding! Note to self, take hoe down next time!

One of the more successful strawberries. Bit disappointed to see 6 of the strawberry plants had died, dispite planting them and caring for them as per the instructions from the supplier (Ken Muir). Fortunately they were under guarantee and a quick email and reply confirms 6 new plants will be sent out shortly, so sometimes worth paying that bit more for quality service.

The remains of the tulips, sadly didn't get down with the camera to capture them in their prime.

The forest of Garlic! I think I'll be supplying most of Sheffield with garlic at this rate.

Jerusalem Artichokes. Despite not planting them at the correct depth and distance apart, they seem to be doing OK.

Some stray mint has appeared, ironically just after I'd planted some in a controlled way by sinking a pot in the ground. However, I'm happy to leave this where it is at the moment since it's where the daffs and tulips were.

A shot of onions, shallots and spinach.

17 May 2007

Some old pictures

The daffs in their prime.

One of several large bonfires - why do I still have so much stuff left to burn?!

My little helper shortly after he sat on the rhubarb and stood on one of the strawberries, which you can just about to see to the right of the picture.

15 May 2007

The average blog...

... apparently only lasts 3 months.

Co-incidentally, it's been about 3 months since my last last post. Unfortunately Mrs D has had knee problems since last December, that got steadily worse and she ended up in hospital over Easter. This has restricted the number of visits to the allotment and the time available to update this blog. Fortunately with the lighter evenings I'm able to get down a bit in the week after the kids are in bed now.

So briefly, since February, we now have a fruit bed of strawberries, raspberries (supplied by my grandad), blackcurrants, rhubarb, a loganberry, a gooseberry and a whitecurrant - last seen (about a couple of weeks ago) looking like they could do with more water than they've been getting. Since then of course they've been getting far too much water... After planting them all I then discovered that according to the terms of the lease, we're not allowed to grow fruit on our allotments! Oh well, can't imagine that's going to be enforced at all.

The daffodils and tulips have been and gone. They looked quite impressive at the time and did the job of brightening up the place when there was not much around. The plan was to have some as cut flowers, but managed to miss the time for that with all of them. [pics to follow].

On the veg front, we have some potatoes (from Vicki in the allotment next door), peas, broad beans, coriander, spinach, carrots and various onions growing (with varying degrees of success).

The nursery (aka the garden at home, complete with min plastic greenhouse) has been overflowing with 5 different types of tomatoes, two different chillies, pumpkins, butternut squash, sunflowers, Brussels sprouts, various herbs and numerous salad leaves - would have pictures but ate most of them for tea the other night...! The wind the other day buffeted the plants quite a bit and we lost a couple - despite them being quite well protected. The slugs and snails have savaged quite a few plants, to such an extent the my organic plans went out the window (temporarily - can you do that?!) in an attempt to save some plants. We now have environmentally friendly slug pellets, together with copper banding on some pots, but I still can't bring myself to use beer in slug traps, it seems like such a waste!

I did use the nemoslug down the allotment during the driest April on record, so that probably didn't work but I guess that's the price you pay for using biological controls like that. Should be due another lot soon, hopefully as it's ideal conditions to use it now.

We've also made huge progress on starting up an association for the allotment site. Had a meeting on our allotment in March where about 40 people turned up! One further meeting has been held and the final 'setting up' meeting is later this week.

Hopefully more pictures and updates as limping wife and demanding children allow!

16 February 2007

A busy week

It was my birthday last week, so I celebrated by shovelling manure in the first of several visits! We now have a small pile of manure that needs to rot dow before being used. As well as claiming the remains of the free manure on our row, I was thoroughly spoilt with far more fruit plants and asparagus than I have land cleared and dug to plant in! Still most of them arrive in the next month or so, which gives me time to plan where everything is going to and to prepare the ground. No pressure there then!

In an allotment themed birthday, I was lucky enough to be bought the following:

    10 Asparagus crowns (Amarus or Wild)
    3 Rhubarb crowns (Victoria)
    1 Dibber
    1 packet of Nemaslug (biological slug killer)
    24 Strawberry plants (12 Gariguette and 12 Chelsea Pensioner)
    25kg seaweed meal

As I said thoroughly spoilt!

The Jerusalem Artichokes also arrived this week, which is something else I needed to figure out where to plant.

Amazingly I met someone on the site who has just taken on 4 (yes, four!) allotments on our row with a group of friends. And if you thought our allotment was bad when we took it on, at least we didn't have the forest to cut down that they have - check out their new blog 47-50 An Allotment Journey. A friend has just taken on a couple of plots on the row below as well, so even in the midst of 'winter' the site is continuing to fill up.

In the several visits this week, the main accomplishment was in moving most of the cut down hedge to the top of the allotment over the rubbish. This allowed me to cut down the remaining hedge at the top of the allotment which means you can see into the allotment from the row at the top for the first time. To celebrate I made a small 'gate' to go across the entrance.

You can also see just how little of the hedge is now remaining, just one solitary 'trunk' of the ash tree remaining after Vicki and I convinced Tim that it wasn't meant to be there! Since the picture was taken this too has been felled.

Given the arrival of the Jerusalem Artichokes, thought I'd best get them in the ground ASAP, which meant planting the Loganberry as well. In order to speed up the process a bit I cheated a little by buying 5 bags of well rotted manure from the local garden centre to add to the ground for the plants. After digging out more blackberry roots and nettles - that I thought I'd already done - and moving the bath further up the allotment, the loganberry is now in as seen here:

The plan is this will add to the security along the relatively small stonewall along this side of the plot. Watch this space to see if it works. After passing 5 of the tubers to Vicki (in return for some potatoes later on), the Jerusalem Artichokes are also in the ground. No picture here as it's just mud!

Followed this up by more digging, and adding the bagged manure and seaweed meal to the dug soil. I reckon about 10-12 square metres have been dug over thoroughly now, and my back still aches in recognition of this. Less said about the top end of the allotment the better at the moment, but the bottom half is coming along quite well, even if I say so myself ;>)

I've been tagged
Which apparently means I have to tell you five things you don't know about me (although this being about the family allotment I've widened it to include info about all of us), so...

  1. I was born on Valentine's Day, at home in the house my parents still live in. Despite having just given birth with no pain relief, when asked by the midwife if I was going to be called Valentine my mother said no. Thank you Mum.

  2. 'Gardening' in the loosest sense of the word should be in my blood. All of my Dad's side of the family from late 1700s right up to the 1940s worked as agricultural labourers. My Dad had an allotment when we were kids, that I used to hate to be dragged down to. My grand parents have a 3 acre field with their house and have grown strawberries, potatoes and fruit trees on it, that we all used to go and help out with. Whilst this has been scaled back since they are now both in their 90s the family still decends on the orchard in the autumn to stock up on apples.

  3. I came to Sheffield as a student on 2 October 1988. This was exactly the same day as my future wife, although we went to separate universities and didn't meeting until 1996.

  4. My son is qualified to play rugby - whether he likes it or not ;>) - for half of Europe and Canada. But it'll be over my dead body that he ever plays for Wales!

  5. And coming full circle (kind of), my daughter was born at home on the lounge floor. It wasn't planned that way, and we do only live 5 minutes drive from the maternity hospital, but when she decided the time was right she didn't want to hang about!

6 February 2007

A nice warm, sunny day...

... for some more digging. Only I got down to the allotments and found them still covered in frost. Bit disappointing, but cut down quite a bit of the hedge with Vicky from the neighbouring plot so we now have more light! Cut up some of the branches for pea/bean sticks so there is less to burn.

Tidied out a bit of the greenhouse area of (yet more) glass and rubbish and discovered the soil is unlikely to support any growth without some serious interventions. Read the info from 'allotment school' and discovered I'd not put anywhere near enough lime on the beds I'd created the other day. Still better that way than adding too much! I also ordered 25kg of seaweed meal from Garden Direct, which strictly speaking is an early birthday present.

Was offered some manure on Sunday evening from Vicky in no 17, although I think most of the site wants some of what is left. I think we'll be getting through a lot between us all so probably won't be the last delivery...

31 January 2007

A day off!

An enjoyable day digging in the sunshine yesterday. Amazing after several hours just how little I'd managed to achieve though! Still there are now two beautifully prepared beds (dug over - again - limed and then covered with weed fabric) ready for onions and carrots. The beds are about 4.5m long by 1.2m wide, with a 0.5m 'path' between them. I'm not planning on edging the beds at this stage as I'm not convinced they will stay in this format in the long term.

The (late planted) daffodils are beginning to make an appearance, as too are the tulips next to them. The garlic continues to grow well and I now have a loganberry, red currant, gooseberry and hazelnut to plant somewhere - all courtesy of 'allotment school'. The loganberry will be grown along part of the stone wall on the border to act as 'security, not sure yet about the red currant and gooseberry, and no idea at all about the hazelnut! It seemed like a good idea at the time to ask for one...

The birdfeeder was empty (well it had been two weeks!) and there were no signs that the squirrels had raided it, so obviously there is some birdlife on the site. The robin made a brief appearance shortly after lunch, but nothing else was spotted. I filled up the bird feeder and we'll see how it is by the weekend.

A depressing site
A friend came along to have a look for an allotment on the site, complete with map from the allotment office. We had a look at what was available and found very little worth considering. One allotment was relatively clear of trees but was a complete bog, and all of the others had some quite substantial trees in them. Not something anyone wants to take on. Not sure if he is brave/mad enough to take on any of the remaining plots. Another plot holder found some pictures of the site less than 30 years ago and it was completely thiving with what looks like all plots taken, sheds, greenhouses everywhere, and no trees anywhere to be see. It's all very depressing compared to now, if a photo was taken from the same spot it would be very difficult to see it was an allotment site (with about 170 plots) at all. And this is with about 90 of them taken now.

An association
Given the state of the site and apparent enthusiasm amongst new plot holders, and the need to decide how to spend the recent £300 award, I've been making enquires about how to start an association on the site. Currently a few of us have drafted a letter which will eventually be send on to the council to send out to all plot holders to see if there is sufficient interest in forming an association. Have to see how this one develops...