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.