8 November 2009

Garlic Planted!

Despite it being far too wet, it was a case of take the opportunity available. So I planted about 15-20 cloves of Solent Wight and Jolimont. They're a lot bigger than the usual Thermidrome I've grown for the past 3 years, so be interesting to see how they get on - assuming they don't rot first.

I had another go at the old greenhouse walls. It appears as though the one at the back may have to stay there! It's reluctant to come down. So the greenhouse re-assembly plans are still on hold.

I also had a bit of a play with my new Azada, which I'm sure will be great when it isn't quite so wet. Certainly going to be good for those areas that still need to be sorted out and are covered in weeds.

I've lifted the netting higher on the brassicas (probably a good month later than I should have), so it's fingers crossed the rabbits don't get in underneath.

After the success of last years leaf mold/mulch in the large builders sacks I've been collecting some more from the valley below. We are lucky to have many trees in Sheffield, but I reckon it takes about 10 bin bags full of leaves to rot down to provide a multch for one of my beds. I've also learnt, the bags need far more holes in them than they had last year and the leaves from the lime trees in the valley are far quicker to rot down than beech leaves. So far I've filled one of the builders sacks. The other one is about half full of last years beech leaves which I'll top up again. I also have a smaller wire leaf mold basket which could do with filling up too. Not too mention (the long neglected) plot no 2...

It's also the time of year when my thoughts turn to getting a delivery of manure. Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure when I'll have the time between now and the end of the year to sort this out :>(

1 November 2009

Still going!

Yes, I am still here but I seem to spend more time dismantling greenhouses than gardening these days. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to acquire a free greenhouse, so long as I dismantled it and took it away. Despite having absolutely no experience in doing this, of course I said yes!

Obviously some help would be useful, so I managed to persuade a stranger I'd only spoken to on the internet into helping, who helpfully bought her OH along too. A couple of days later, and many aching limbs later, I'm now the proud owner of a dismantled greenhouse in two separate locations.

It's quite big and transporting that much glass and that sized frame across Sheffield - a city with a some big hills and a lot of pot holes - was very interesting!

To get this up on the plot, I now have to demolish the old brick base. Easy? No, it's actually in better shape than I'd realised and is reluctant to come apart. Also the ground level of the greenhouse is about 40cm lower than that outside the greenhouse. It's currently back to the drawing board about what to do about the base.

So whilst I'm thinking about that it was time to repay the greenhouse dismantling favour to Michelle. I'm not at all jealous it's bigger nor that it came apart far easier... ;>)

Where did the light go?
I do love the colours of autumn, but it does herald the shorter days. Which in turn means chances to visit the plot are few and far between. I have managed to collect several bags of leaves - my most successful crop perhaps? Being plentiful in supply you have to do nothing to them to make a tremendous mulch or better still leaf mold.

The garlic, onions, broad beans and peas remain unplanted.

29 September 2009

Gone but not forgotten

Some b*stard decided they'd nick my wheelbarrow the other day to cart off the rest of the scrap they were stealing from other plots around me :>(

They may also have taken the fork too - or that could just be a bit too well hidden and I've forgotten where I put it - again.

It was duly reported, but I doubt I'll be seeing it again. What's most upsetting is that there are several others in full view on other plots and mine was well hidden and on top of the manure heap.

Long overdue update on everything else coming soon...

16 July 2009

Where does the time go?

I'll tell you where the time goes at this time of year, it's picking everything and trying to keep on top of the weeds! This is some of what I've picked in the last few days:

Which features radish, lettuce, potatoes, peas, broad beans, onions (overwintered - red and white), shallots, mint, raspberries, loganberries, strawberries and blackcurrants. And I have to say I'm quite chuffed with that!

To keep on top of all the fruit this year I've been making jam. Around 35 jars so far this year! So far we have Rhubarb and Orange, Gooseberry, Strawberry, and Raspberries jam, and Marmalade - and the burnt strawberry jam of course... Although it has to be said it is still OK in jam roly poly.

30 June 2009

Busy, busy, busy!

Life on the plot continues apace, so to catch up quickly:

Potatoes (Charlotte) are going down well with a couple of plants providing enough for one meal for the four of us. The children did complain about having potatoes so often, but then queried where they were the next day!

Strawberries remain an ongoing battle, but I'm please to report the 'fortress' finally seems to be working and picked about a kilo last night. This makes up for going to Whirlow Farm to pick strawberries - they're expensive, but it is a charity that the kids love going to - then spending several hours trying to get the jam to set, only to burn it. The recipe (HFW jam 'guru') wasn't great either as there was far too much lemon in it as well.

I'm also getting quite a few raspberries from the 'self set' plants dotted around the plot and the summer raspberries are just beginning to take off on plot no 2. Getting a few red currants at last - netting the plants a couple of months ago obviously paid off! - and hunting through the weeds the blackcurrants (on plot no 1) are also just starting.

However, these are just insignificant compared to the Gooseberries. I picked over 2 kg of these from one plant!

I've also made another batch of rhubarb and orange jam, this time with enough sugar for it to set properly.

The overwinter onions are keeling over, so I dug up half a dozen last night - including a couple of 'monster' ones! You can't really tell quite how big the are in this picture, may need to take another photo ;>)

Nearly forgot about the radishes as well, which have managed to escape attention from the slugs this year, so have been having a steady supply of mixed radishes.

Allotment Fair
Last year we had a hog roast on the site for plot holders, with some other food and music. So this year we (as an Association) decided to apply for some funding from the council, and we were lucky enough to receive some to put on a larger event inviting people from other sites in Sheffield, as well as from the Allotment Regeneration Initiative.

We probably had a couple of hundred people over the day, beer from Bradfield Brewery (most upsetting as I was driving!), elderflower cordial (supplied by me!), lots of food from various plot holders, music and the all important slide (don't ask!) for the children. Oh and a 120lb organic pig ;>)

The bar

The pig

Coming soon...
The dwarf peas and Broad beans should be ready in the next couple of weeks, with more raspberries and blackcurrants.

6 June 2009

Allotments: an obsession?

It's been a while since the last update. It's that busy time of year, and not always on the plot, and I seem to struggle to update the blog at this time of year. Whilst I would do a quick catch up, I have to moan (no doubt at length) about my strawberries.

Now I grow good strawberries. It's not that I'm particularly talented in growing them but I spent a reasonable amount of time selecting a couple of decent varieties for taste above all else (Chelsea Pensioner and Gariguette from Ken Muir). Everyone who has been privileged to taste them has agreed that they are very good. Sadly, I struggle to get many strawberries off the plants due to pests eating them before I get to them.

Originally I had problems with slugs, then I thought it was birds, then mice, before finally catching a squirrel legging it with one of my strawberries in its mouth last year. War was declared. The children were banned from from feeding them at the Botanical Gardens. Large amounts of netting were bought. All to no avail.

This year the feeding ban remains (and they know that it's because the rats with tails are stealing their strawberries) and I started off with chicken wire around the outside of the strawberry bed, straw under the strawberries, slug pellets and netting over the top. Half a punnet of strawberries later with only a few losses I thought we'd reached an acceptable compromised. However a later trip revealed this was not the case. The tree rats decided they wanted everything, having chewed their way in through the netting, decimating all of the (partly) ripened fruits and many still green strawberries.

So tonight I spent over two hours putting chicken wire over the top and tying it to the surrounding chicken wire and joining the two strips together. I then made sure the bottom of the wire was firmed in to the earth, sprinkled chill powder (they supposedly don't like that) around the outside and over the top where the wire is tied together to try and stop them chewing through the string and then covered it all over with the netting again. Quite how I'll get in to pick any strawberries that survive lord alone knows! As I was doing this a couple of the thieving little b*stards popped up at the bottom of the plot and did a runner when they saw me. If this doesn't work I'm going to start sleeping there. With an air rifle.

I couldn't help but think I'm probably growing the world's most expensive strawberries. Gariguette are sold in Harrods, at this rate it'll be cheaper to get on a train to go and buy them in London. To be honest it'll probably be cheaper to get on a train to France to buy them at this rate. But it's a matter of principle and I will not be beaten.

And breathe.

Some older photos from a few weeks back:

17 May 2009

After many years...

I'd like to think I'm finally winning the battle with the hedge. This is further helped by the new neighbour who maintains trees and hedges for the National Trust which is a bit of a bonus. For his professional reputation I should point out that most of the hacking of that hedge was carried out by me!

Looking down the plot - OK it's a mess, but at the bottom of the plot you can see the remaining few bits of the hedge adjoining the plots below as well.

Looking up the plot - the hedge at the top of the plot looking like it's well maintained... It's not.

Out and about on the plot everything has picked up in the rains, and strangely I've not seen any slugs or snails??? Even saw a few bees around on Saturday, so feeling pleased I left the comfrey go to flower:

The dwarf peas are picking up a treat and remain largely unblemished by either bird or slug attack today. Not entirely sure why, maybe the fewer trees on site is finally helping, but they also have some twigs from the hedge and string to help protect them:

I've finally made it into the old greenhouse and cleared out one of the beds. Well I say cleared out, but I'll be digging out glass from there for many years to come. I'm finding it absolutely fascinating sorting it out and the picture below does not do it justice. The base is about 90cm high, and approximately 3 x 7 metres - yes it was vast! What you can't see in the picture (and can't really be captured) is a water tank to the left of where I took the photo from. This is set into the ground and is about 50cm deep, but is fed into by the much larger tank outside via a pipe through the wall - presumably the outside tank collecting the water off the greenhouse?

It has to be remembered that this has been there for many years now, the site is on a very steep hill and on the outskirts of Sheffield so quite how whoever built it got the materials there is beyond me! I still harbour thoughts of putting a polytunnel over this base, but I don't think it's as stable as it once was.

Any mycologists out there?
In tidying up the plot I found a small patch of mushrooms next to the (privet) hedge, growing in amongst the old bits of hedge I know use to bean sticks and the dead leaves. Now I've no idea what these are and am wondering if they are edible at all. Now my wife's cousin (an 'amateur' mushroom hunter, but by her own admission, no expert) seems to think they could be St George's mushrooms. Anyone have any thoughts???

9 May 2009

2009 Spot the shed competition

Plot no 2 doesn't get the attention it deserves at times and as a result it's not likely to be winning this years prize for the best allotment in Sheffield:

(clue: the shed is somewhere in this picture)

Even the pond is looking a bit sorry for itself. It's not helped by the fact I think the liner has a 'puncture'. OK I admit it in attempted to clean out some of the weed a few weeks back I think I must have split it.

What the pictures don't show is quite how well my ground elder and dandelions are growing... Much hoeing later they're still there, just not growing as well.

Fortunately not everything on this plot looks so bad, the main area for veg isn't too bad.

The potatoes are just coming though in the foreground, followed by some dwarf French beans under the fleece (well they will be once they come though!), broad beans (about 3-4cm high) with some rather sickly looking onions in the distance - not sure if I planted these a bit late?

The highlight of the plot though is the apple trees, currently in full blossom:

The newly planted strawberries from the runners from plot no 1 are just coming into flower. The plants aren't looking that healthy, but not too bad for their first year. They also suffer from being in the shade of one of the apple trees - never really thought that planting area through beforehand!

Finally managed to fix the greenhouse window (temporarily) and release the bee trapped in there, before hacking away at more dandelions around the greenhouse.

3 May 2009

Fruit update

Finally my potatoes and broad beans have made an appearance, the peas have so far escaped the attention of the slugs and/or pigeons and the weeds are largely being kept in check. However by far the best looking plants on the plots are the fruit plants and bushes. The early strawberries (Chelsea Pensioner) are coming into flower and the plants are looking better than they ever had - which is about time as it's their last year.

Given just how few strawberries I've managed to eat from these plants due to slugs, squirrels and the weather, this year I've started to assemble the defences early:

However, I did realise that if I put the netting over the top as well there wouldn't be many insects that would get through to pollinate the flowers... The wires also needs pegging down to stop the squirrels from getting underneath. Once the strawberries start to form I'll also be putting down some chilli powder as apparently this keeps the squirrels away, slug pellets to keep the slugs away with the mini polytunnels as back up against the usual British summer. And if that doesn't work I'm giving up growing strawberries.

The redcurrants are also looking good so I put some netting over them the other day. Due to the 'improvised' nature of this they're still vunerable to squirrel attack, so I'll be trying the chilli powder around them too.

Next to the redcurrant the gooseberry bush is doing really well (on plot no 1), however the two plants on plot no 2 are looking pretty crap and I fear it may be their last year there! I've no idea how old these plants are but hopefully I'll get some cuttings off the decent plant.

I also made some comfrey 'tea' to feed the strawberries. It will stink so I've covered it over with an old compost sack. The plants are doing really well and just about to flower so now I have a dilemma: do I cut them down now and let them re-grow or do I let the flower as the bees love the flowers?

Finally more tulips, struggling on through the weeds and mint.

26 April 2009

The Ghillie in action!

Bright(ish) on Saturday morning I set off for the plot, mainly to try out the Ghillie. Arrived just after 9am and there's at least 5 cars already there!

Started digging in the area towards the top of the plot that I've never really cleared since taking it on. Boy was it hard work! The ground is absolutely full of weeds and roots, and in about half an hour I'd hardly dug anything at all - a few square metres at best. I may try plan B, which is just to cover it over to kill off most of the weeds before attempting to dig it again in the Autumn - it's reaching the stage where realistically I'll be spending too much time weeding to keep on digging! So I hoed off a few weeds around the plot, including a fair few phacelia seedlings I'd forgotten about (oops!) before deciding it was time to make a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.

It has to be said the first attempt was successful in making the tea, but needs a bit more work in cooking the bacon sandwich. Definitely a worthwhile investment though and will be getting a lot of use.

Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I attempted to rescue the poor tulips. They're not looking anywhere near as good this year as last year - which may be due to the bed being completely swamped with weeds. It's looking very likely I'm going to have to dig them up to clear the bed completely later on in the year.

Tulips - Queen of the Night

This week, weather permitting, I plan to take the plunge and get the first of my French beans in. A bit early, but I'm going to cover them over with fleece and cross my fingers. The strawberries are also coming into flower so it's time to get the chicken wire fortress constructed!

22 April 2009

Mad dogs and Englishmen

Monday, lovely and sunny, I'll have the day off. Was very hot in fact had my sun hat on all day (sadly a necessity due to the rapidly thinning hair) and used the suncream (if you're reading Mrs D!).

To catch up slightly though, been spending a fair amount of time on plot no 1 hacking down the hedge - again. Yes that's me again Mark (of absent neighbour fame). This time it's down to about 3 foot high and there was rather a large bonfire the other night to get rid of a lot of it. Still got loads left, but now the plot gets sunlight in the afternoon. The trees are next...

The plot 'below' ours has also now been taken and cleared, and they have chopped down most of the hedge between our two plots as well. It's good to see more people on the site and someone doing something with that plot that actually looks in quite good condition. Also might encourage me do to something with that end of the plot.

So having set fire to most of the rubbish on the plot last week in a satisfyingly large bonfire last week thought I'd best get on and dig over that side of the plot - not least because I'd got a dozen asparagus crowns in need of planting. So I dug over the patch above the comfrey and removed a load of weeds. I then raked it over with the cultivator to get out all the weeds I'd missed. I then threw on some rockdust, dug it over again and added loads of well rotted manure. It has to be said that not every bit of the allotment gets that much love and attention! The rest of the area I'd dug over after planting the asparagus was covered with a couple of barrow fulls of manure on the surface. I'm hoping this will be where the courgettes go - you can see this area on the right of the picture above.

The (perpetual) spinach is not at an end at all, despite needing the space for the onions. It is growing extremely well and we've already had enough to go with a couple of meals off it. The same is true of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli, which is actually quite prolific at the moment. Tastes amazing, lovely and tender - just a shame it takes up so much space for so long.

Elsewhere I noticed the (dwarf) peas are just beginning to poke through the surface. Whether they are still there the next time I go down is a different matter. Following a suggestion from some other blog a glance at (!) I put my tall peas (Telephone) in trays to start them off to try and avoid the pigeons and/or mice getting to them before they get going - and also to allow me to get some sticks in place. All my potatoes are now planted, 5 rows on each plot - with just Charlottes and Sarpo Axona on plot no 1 and the same plus Pink Fir Apple on plot no 2. It will be interesting to compare how they do, although they should in theory do much better on no 1 as the ground has been better prepared and the soil holds the moisture better there.

On the fruit side of the plot things are looking fantastic after the cold winter:


Gooseberry bush


The main fruit bed

All I have to do know if keep the wildlife off them all so we get what will hopefully be a bumper harvest from them all. The fruit on plot no 1 is looking a lot better than than on plot no 2 for some reason???

So eventually up to plot no 2. A bit more digging and 120 onion sets were planted. I also tidied up the greenhouse and took up several trays of plants from home to put up there - much to Mrs D's delight, so we can now sit at the kitchen table again! In a couple of weeks we might even have the spare bedroom back as a spare bedroom too ;>)

Planted up lots of courgettes, summer squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, couple of different types of dwarf French beans in toilet rolls and probably more I can't remember! Not sure where they're all going to go though...

Finally I bought one of these the other day:


Seemed like the perfect tool for the allotment. Not had chance to try it out yet, but this weekend...

7 April 2009

Catching up

Now the clocks have gone forward I've been taking the opportunity to go down in the evenings, together with a few hours at the weekend. As a result plot no is looking in reasonable shape - the fruit bed has been weeded, the scaffolding boards have been 'stood up' (i.e. I've put the supports in better so they stay upright) and some weed fabric has been put down on the paths around the bed. I also put in a couple of rows of Charlottes, some coriander, parsley, spinach and dwarf peas (Hatif d'Annonay). I finally managed to plant out my shallots (Longor) and some of the onions (Sturton). The rest of the onions desperately need planting out, but the purple sprouting broccoli is now performing very well in the space the onions are going to go.

I have 10 Asparagus crowns coming later this week, courtesy of the latest allotment association grant, but I've still to decide where they are going yet alone prepared the ground.

In between the weeding and planting I've been attacking the hedge (once again). This time I'm taking it down to about 3 foot high in an attempt to control it. My absentee neighbour hasn't exactly been much help (or any at all) with this and to be honest I'm not sure whether he's even coming back. Whoever is 'working' the plot will find a lot of privet piled up on it...

Plot no 2 is still been dug over and I've just about decided what is going where. I'm not going to grow any brassicas on this plot so it's just going to be potatoes, legumes and onions and carrots. Best finish the digging quick then!

The forced rhubarb is coming to an end, but the other rhubarb is now growing well. Picked some spinach, Jerusalem artichokes and purple sprouting broccoli, but I think the spinach is at an end now as I need the space.

Hopefully some photos soon, but couldn't seem the point in taking pictures of bare earth.

25 March 2009

Happy Birthday Mrs D!

As Mrs D turns ** [figure not disclosed for reasons of personal safety!] I took the day off to take her out for lunch - well it's not often we get out without children in tow! The presents from the allotments were a small bunch of daffodils, forced rhubarb and the first purple sprouting brocolli of the year.

The rhubarb provided dessert (stewed and served with vanilla ice cream) and also the base for rhubarb bellinis!