24 May 2011

The wind

Wind damaged was mercifully minimal, thanks in part to my generally late planting this year (I've still yet to figure out why) and also the privet hedges around the plots - who'd have thought there'd be a time when I was thankful for the privet?! One of the (almost empty) water butts had been blown over on to one of the comfrey plants, which I'm sure will survive since I've yet to kill the stuff yet even when I want to!

Unfortunately the major casualty of the wind was the den:

I've yet to break the news to the kids...

21 May 2011

"Can we build a den?"

Popped out with my youngest this morning to buy some straw to put under the strawberries from the local allotment shop. It seemed silly not to then put it around the strawberries so we stopped off at the allotment too ;>)

Hoed round the strawberries, gave them some water and then put the straw round them together. Did a bit of weeding then ready to go home. "No I don't want too." Well that told me! I finished off the tidying up I started the other day and the plot is looking tidier than it ever has (although still not up to Craig's standard!). Perhaps there is some benefit to being unemployed after all!

An hour or so later, finally showing signs of possibly going home when she comes up to me, puts her arms around me and asks "can we build a den?". Who could say no to that sort of request? Not me.

Fortunately I still have plenty of sticks around from when I originally cut the privet down several years ago and plenty of string. The framework was in place, but by this time I was hungry so I persuade her to come home for lunch with the promise we could finish it after lunch, and maybe bring her Mum and brother to help. And the camera.

Mrs D doesn't do digging, so bought her knitting whilst me and the kids finished off the den. There were some disagreements over style, flooring and who should be doing what but eventually this is what we ended up with:

I left the kids to argue about who could sit where and anything else they could think off, and dug in my caliente mustard. And at that price it had better work! I potted on some of my Costolutu Fiorentino (as grown my Monty on Gardener's World! - mine aren't that far advanced and will be grown in pots though) and a few cucumbers and gherkins (Paris Pickling, Miniature White and Bimbostar).

By which stage Mrs D declared she'd had enough of sitting in full sun so it was time to go home! Oh and can I make a pergola for some shade?! That'll teach me for taking her down to the plot - LOL!

19 May 2011

A bit of a tidy up

I thought I'd move the plastic greenhouse to put it next to the 'cold frame' I'd cobbled together the other day. So I emptied out the plants - which was a surprisingly large number and moved it into the old greenhouse area. Only to find it didn't fit. I then took apart the cold frame - which took far longer as I was too lazy to put it together properly in the first place - and moved it along a bit so the greenhouse would fit in. That done, all the plants were put back:

Now the plan was to tidy up the old play area where the plastic greenhouse was so there was somewhere to sit on the plot, only I ran out of time. So not really much of a tidy up at all really!

Elsewhere on the plot, everything is still crying out for water so I gave as much as I could a really good soaking. I'm almost at the stage of having to use the tap. The strawberries are forming so they are getting more water than most things on the plot at the moment so we don't end up with mis-shaped fruit:


Although they could do with some straw and netting sooner rather than later. The large alliums I originally thought I was growing for cutting (they're far too good for that!) are out and stunning.

Along with the rosemary next to it, there are bees everywhere. Hopefully a few of them are making the short trip to the strawberries nearby. Even with loads of bees around they are surprisingly difficult to photograph well, but will a bit of perseverance (i.e. taking a lot of photos) I managed to come up with a decent one:

The peas and beans are slowly beginning to get going, but like everything else suffering from a lack of water:

Finally finished off the bean netting and put some lettuce in the middle to grow whilst waiting for the beans and peas to grow - which could be a while since I didn't manage to get them in! I also put in some of the sweet peas in various places along the netting. Sadly the camera stopped cooperating by this stage.

Exciting News!
The optimistically titled 'polytunnel bed' in the last post is indeed to become the polytunnel bed! Negotiations with Mrs D went somewhat easier than expected: "Can I get a polytunnel for the allotment?". "If it'll get all your plants out the garden, then yes". Before she had chance to change her mind I ordered a 15 x 8 foot polytunnel from First Tunnels which was the biggest tunnel I could get in the space I have left, and not much smaller than the largest size allowed on Sheffield Allotments. Hopefully it'll be here before the end of the month.

10 May 2011

Now, where was I...?

Regular readers (anyone left?!) will know I found myself out of a job at the end of March. Strangely the lack of a job and increased activity on the plots has resulted less output on the blog front. Maybe I don't need the escape of the blog so much at the moment? Or maybe I'm just too knackered in the evening to write anything? So, what have I been up to...?

The Greenhouse
I finally got my act together and sorted out a base for the greenhouse I've had languishing the garden for a while. I developed my bricklaying skills (wonder if I can put this on my CV?!), although perhaps more use of the tape measure would have been beneficial. Having ironed out several 'issues' I was just about ready to go with the assembly when I discovered yet more of the frame has gone missing thanks to our local 'scrap men'.

At this point I had to question whether it was going to be worth trying to put the thing up, and unfortunately came to the conclusion it wouldn't be worth it - I could get a new polytunnel for not much more than the price of replacing various bits of frame and glass. Which is a bit of a pisser given the work I'd put in for the foundations and the lack of space I was hoping for to grow tomatoes and chillies in.

After a day of moping around and kicking the cats (only kidding, about the cats anyway!) I came up with the following greenhouse/cold frame construction that I'm hoping will be OK for growing the chillies under at least:

It's still at the prototype stage so needs screwing together still, but was made from bits around on the plot - although I had just bought the wood for the greenhouse. I'm quite pleased to have built in the water collection element too, as despite the long dry spell recently I'm pleased to say I still haven't had to use the provided water supply, thanks to the various water butts on plot no 1.

The Frost
Last week here in Sheffield there was a frost, and let's just say the inside of the mini greenhouse was not a pretty side the following morning. A lot of plants made the journey to the compost bin. Fortunately I had grown plenty of plants from various packets of seeds I needed to use up, the plan being to sell the surplus plants at plant sales on site and at the local school garden open day. So whilst the plant sales aren't going to be getting many plants I do still have the plants I want for my growing.

Media Star!
The Allotment Association had it's first plant sale at the end of April, which was list as one of the first events for Sheffield Environment Weeks. This attracted the attention of a local journalist who came down on site to interview a few of us. Two hours later, the story of the site told, he left. Fortunately when the paper came out that week we had a full page article, giving us some great publicity. Sadly this didn't make it online, but I have scanner so you can read it here.

Polytunnel Bed
Now the tree has been cut down I've been clearing the area around there and have discovered it is big enough to fit a polytunnel on, hence the name. This is somewhat wishful thinking as without a job I don't think the wife would be overly happy about spending £400 on a polytunnel! I have been trying to work out the cost of the tomatoes she buys though to see how long before it pays for itself!

We've been having a lot of rhubarb, which is good as we just have the one productive crown at the moment and have even had enough to make a few jars of jam. I harvested the first salad leaves this week, picked a couple of peonies for the wife (which were lying on the ground anyway) and had some oh so rare purple sprouting broccoli - I think it's suffering from a long winter and now a lack of water, still I thought I'd lost it all so it's all a bonus.

Tulips were few and far between (see below), and not what they were supposed to be in my opinion: I'd bought Queen of the Night but they seemed far too small and red. I queried this with the supplier and even sent a photo as requested but have heard nothing since. And given only two of the white tulips came up and the Dahlias I planted from them are looking at a similar success rate, I guess that means I won't be ordering from Garden 4 Less again...

The weather
After weeks of hot sunny weather and no rain, a few weeks ago we had a hail storm. It's no exaggeration to say I've never seen anything like it. Hail stones the size of broad beans, a tremendous noise, localised flooding, the roads covered in ice, etc. All of which wasn't good news for tender young plants: lots of purple sprouting broccoli, Brussels, leeks and sunflowers snapped off in their youth. Not to mention tulips in their prime. Bugger. Fortunately still early enough to replant many of the young plants at least.

What no weeds?
All this dry weather has resulted in very few weeds to date. I know, I know, famous last words an' all that... Especially given the rain in the past few days. Fortunately (?), the ground elder and bindweed up on plot no. 2 is still growing well so I have had plenty to do

So to sum up, some set backs but no-one said this gardening lark was easy!