Category Archives: Preparation

Out thee horrid weeds #gdnbloggers

digging

Lately, I have spent a lot of time sat at the kitchen table writing. I spent all day Saturday there with my ink pen and notebook, so Sunday was going to be different. Today started with school work-School Work Sunday, as usual-and once that was done, I headed down to the plot.

It has been the mission for the last six weeks to actually remove the dead grass in the raised beds. With one thing and another, but mainly being busy with school work, I may have got a little way laid and lost some of my mojo. Well, the mojo has been low for a while, and I really want to revive it some what. With the grass getting yellower, it was a probably good idea to get rid of it.

 

The plan was to sort out one bed, but with Mum’s help four of the raised beds were cleared. I did the clearing, and Mum did the digging over. I am not really built to dig, but Mum sees no problem with it and followed me with the fork and spade to turn the soil over.  Thankfully, the grass came away fairly easily and now I have a canvas to plug tomatoes and squashes into.  There are three patches of open ground that were also treated, and these will dealt with next. These will be somewhat more challenging-there is digging required-but grass removal in the first instance. Open ground patches do pose their challenges and difficulties as the soil is heavy clay. I did have a thought about sowing spinach in some parts to raise the productivity level. This may involve a combination of seeds and plugged in plants. Whilst Mum tends to have enough spinach and greens to fuel a small planet, there’s never been much on mine. This, therefore, is on the list. Given how the seedlings at home are doing their best not to germinate and grow, there may be wholesale cheating going on with plants being drafted in.

As you can imagine, my hands got a little dirty; a little bloody too, as there was petulant and angry bramble that needed a bit of taming. And talking of a bramble, there were ladybirds having a spot of fun and it didn’t seem right to hack away and interrupt. I went off, to have a look at a couple of roses that had appeared. Roses on the plot, is something that I am looking forward to. They offer a fabulous colour burst and smell rather lovely. Having had a disappointing growing season last year, seeing the roses kick off does rather signal a change.

Over due intro to the plot #gdnbloggers

You can also view the video here.

Thought I should perhaps add a little context with where all of the fruit and veg that is grown comes from.

The allotment plot has been going through peaks ans troughs over the last six years, with some great successes and some rather wearing disasters. This is just brief overview of the plot. It is hoped that over the coming months, there will be some planning and preparation on the plot with it gradually being tidied up for the forth coming growing season. It is something of a mess at the moment, and turning it around will take some time and effort.

Aloos, Onions (and 32)

The day after a birthday is never good. 32, incidently. I didn’t mind 30 or 31. This one just feels different; as there is a checklist as to what I should have achieved by this point. If my life was to be measured by the Disney Scale of loveliness (and general bollywood standards of doing what you are supposed in relation to cultural normals and behaviours), I am failing on not having two kids and a significant other. So trying not be to be a grumpy sour puss old woman today, and reflecting-on balance-on what I have done so far.

It snowed this morning. I actually leapt out of bed having been informed of that fact by my sister, and pulled back the curtains. I swore. The plan was to sink the last of spuds and some experimental onion sets. This did not bode well, there had been little time for the allotment to dry out this week. Given how it is the middle of April, I should know better than to discount April Showers.

Thankfully, the snow subsided. There had been big fluffy flakes of snow falling onto the garden like feathers. Somewhat unexpected, though friends in the northern climbs had already been bracing for impact. Plus I had some how avoided watching the weather.

This meant that normal service could be resumed. Having filled raised beds earlier this week,  the final lot of potatoes could be sunk. The last remaining bag was of Pink Fir Apple. These have already been split with Mum, who has sunk some in the open ground of her newly acquired half plot. I guess we can do something of an experiment. We can observe the possible differences in raised beds and open ground. Whilst her plot has rather friable soil, mine is heavy, sticky clay. For this reason, I have learned to not plant my potatoes in open ground.

You can see the youtube version here.

The other thing to do was to sink onions. I haven’t done this for a long time, as I don’t tend to garner much success with the sets. I have previously sown sets in autumn and in spring, with the resultant crop being quite small. There was definite poor results with red onions, so I have always been a bit wary. However, as Mum was intent on sowing onions and asked for me to find some; I don’t mind another go.

You can see the youtube version here.

As for 32. I don’t really want to dwell on it; but it will take time to let go. The bullish amongst us will naturally just shrug their shoulders and say that it is just a number. That is true, the next one is 33 and doesn’t-at this stage-look or feel scary.  I think I looked at it yesterday morning as being half way to my pension (it’s not worth a lot, unfortunately). Then again, that age changes with the frequency of an elected government.

I could, sit here and tot up a list of done, outstanding yet to do, and might possibly like to do. I would be there a long time, I am likely to depress myself and get angry about it. The outstanding yet to do section is the sort of  column dictated by the old school Bollywood aunties and the edict would be:: ahem:: get married, have babies, do the Disney Princess thing. In part, I am exaggerating, in part, it really is  ‘what is wrong with you,(there must be something wrong with you at this point) you should be doing X, Y and Zed, you’re not getting any younger’… see, it’s infuriating, but stupidly true. (I’d quite like to walk 100m of the great wall of China, and see the vatican, but you know…)

Anyway, the spuds are planted. There are squashes to be sown.

We’ll get there.

 

 

Fresh dirt under the nails

To misquote Maroon5, that was what happened today.

Half of the plot has raised beds. It is far too low to use otherwise with frequent flooding that means very deep puddles. Raised  beds have worked very successfully over the last few years. However, their levels do tend to decrease over time. Each year, I collect leaves for leaf mold and then any organic material I put into the beds. Some of the beds have some of this and just needed topping off. Others were rather weary. So today, there was something of a mission.

You can see the youtube version here.

Thankfully, today was actually a dry and sunny day. I was able to lug around the compost bags during the course of the day; I had parental support getting them to the plot. I know ache a little having done so, but all being well today will be worth it. I aim to sink the rest of the seed potatoes in some of the beds. Further to this, I might root around in the seedbox and see if there is anything that can be broadcast sown into the beds. Might even make another attempt at sowing onion sets.

Spud sinking and plot pottering

It’s not raining! It’s Good Friday, and it’s not raining. Yet.

There is rain scheduled, it is after a bank holiday. Before it arrives, I have taken this opportunity to wander down the plot, sink potatoes and check on the fruit trees.

First with the potatoes though:

You can see the youtube version here.

Kestrel and Lady Balfour potatoes have been sunk into raised beds. I still have to sink pink fir apple, once I have filled the other beds with ‘orse poop. I put the seed potatoes into raised beds as there is better drainage, less resistance for the forming tubers and previous experience has meant a big, quite successful crop. I’m not sure yet if there will be any international kidney this year on the plot.

There was also the opportunity to look at the young fruit trees that are planted on the plot. With the site being windy, they could do with some bracing support so that they don’t keel over. I did quick count, and found that I had quite a few fruit trees, I guess I don’t need to buy any more! In the picture above, you see the morello cherry tree. This one, along with the sylvia, moor park apricot, darling peach, pear du comice, czar  and victoria plum were all tied to a stake sunk beside them.

With the exception of the Czar plum tree, all of the trees appear to be waking up and have buds forms on their boughs. I am not too sure about the Czar, as it has always been a little bit of a miserable looking tree.  The plot most certainly has it’s own little micro-cosm that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the site; i think the peach is the only that is sending out pink fuzzy buds. Have been watching it closely and willing the bud to burst.

Sowing Seeds on a Saturday

Today is the first day of my Easter Holidays, and that means starting to think about what is to do on the allotment. In particular, inside the polytunnel.

The youtube version can be found here.

Whilst I have tried plants and potatoes in the poly tunnel, this is the first for seeds. I have scattered an assortment of radishes, beetroot and different types of lettuces. There were all year round butter head lettuces, as red yugoslavian, lollo rosso, little gem and one called rouge D’Hiver. With radishes, we have a mixture. In terms of beetroot we have have the usual boltardy and Chioggia.

It was very cold in there! Less warmer than it was the other day when the shelving was built.

 

I hid in the poly tunnel, whilst Mum did some digging outside. Whilst it was cold, the plot has started to dry out a little bit more. I think the worse thing that might happen in terms of the weather might be a deluge of April showers. No news yet on the beans sown the other day, I suspect the poly tunnel needs to be a little warmer.

 

Building and beans

I went down to the plot today! I wasn’t booked to be anywhere, I could have a lie in, and then I was able to go do things on the plot. The last few months, in fact since the start of the academic year, have been rather busy. Between school work and volunteering, there has been a lot going on. So much so, there have been times where going to the plot has been somewhat challenging. I am for making time, and there have been instances where it has just been a quick visit to make sure things are still standing.

Also, it hasn’t rained today. Yet!

The sun is out, it has just nipped behind a cloud, as I type; but it is out. Has lent itself to being used appropriately. I am hoping that my gardening mojo will return as the seasons change and the growing season kicks off proper.

Today, was about tidying up the poly tunnel. Not a lot has happened in there since the summer, I didn’t plant anything in there; though I probably should have. I have had it a couple of years now, and I am still trying to work out how to use it properly. In I went, and tidied up and away the assortment of grassy weeds that had taken up residence. I also passed a hoe around to break up and aerate the soil. A green film had appeared across the soil and needed to be scuffed away. A couple of days ago, I had removed the rather mottled and decaying pots of chillies, there may be a couple more in the smaller greenhouse actually. Free of both weeds and pots, the poly tunnel started to look a bit serviceable again. To make it even more so, I had some shelving to build.

shelving

It does look a little wonky, yes, the ground isn’t particularly level inside and I’m not investing in industrial strength shelving. There is going to be a point where I run out of space at home in terms of window sills. I do have the four tier blowaway and the walk in greenhouse as well to help ease congestion. Thing is, any seedlings sown need to  be mature enough and hardened off before they exist the house. As wonky as it looks, the shelving is okay. Was simple enough to build, it didn’t require any tools; and I have secured the shelves themselves to the frame by tying wool. It is most likely that as the tomatoes and chillies at home get bigger, they will find themselves on these shelves. It won’t be long before I need the window sills at home for squashes.

The next thing to do was to actually sow something. I am still a little behind, or at least it feels like I am. I am still meaning to sow sunflowers, but today was all about beans.

 

In particular climbing French beans and running beans. Beans have been one of the most successful and abundant crops on the plot. I have stayed with the varieties that we have sown and grown in the past. These are:

  • Scarlet emperor
  • Painted lady
  • Borlotto beans
  • Cobra
  • Blue lake

As you can see, the whole tray of modules is full. Yes, that is an awful lot of beans. They do all get used, either fresh or are frozen for use in cooking. When frozen, they do keep well. I don’t actually recall Mum ever blanching them. The crop tends to be washed and diced, before ending up in the freezer until needed. I quite like the climbing french beans, and I would not have been forgiven had I not sown runner beans. Mum asked a couple of weeks ago-she made eyes at me and everything-about when I would be sowing runner beans.

Incidently, it is very hard not to type runner beans….

She is not a big fan of the interestingly coloured borlotto beans,  but I wasn’t going to let them escape the plot. I quite like them, they look really quite nice peeking out through the foliage on the canes. They are pretty much used in the same way as runner beans in the kitchen, so the appearance gets glossed over. Once curried in a pan, you can’t really tell the difference in the appearance. Turmeric will do that to a dish.

In other news, I am working on the next GYO/Plot book. It was a thought that crossed my mind, and stayed there. There is a vague plan, of what might be in it; I will need to reflect further on the fine details. But there will be recipes in there, that much I do know!

Not sure when it will be done, but I will get it sorted soon. This means working on book two and three most likely at the same time over course of the year.

 

Petal’s Horticultural Obbit youtube channel

channelheader

You can find it here:

At this stage I am not that skilled with creating videos and uploading them. I have however been trying to create them for a while. I am hoping, that in the coming growing season I will be making some more and adding them to both the blog and the channel. I tend to upload them to youtube anyway, so that I can use them on the blog.

At the moment, the channel only has a few bits and pieces. The endeavour is make things varied and as useful as the blog might be. Sometimes, you can read as much you want; but seeing something and hearing something is a little more useful. Trust me, as a teacher; that makes sense to me.

#NABLOPOMO: My Aubergine is your Eggplant 2015

I wasn’t going to sow aubergines this year. After last years mixed results, I was feeling a little put off, However, I am going to use my previous growing experience, as a learning experience and take away the key findings and conclusions. This year, rather than putting them directly them into the ground, I will keep them in pots in the same way as the chillies. They will once more be in the poly tunnel.

The varieties:

  • Diamond
  • Dancer
  • Tres Hative De Barbentane
  • Black Beauty

Last year, there were some mixed results. All of the varieties were planted into the ground. Some of these grew into lovely luscious plants, with rather pretty purple flowers. There were also some rescued aubergine plants, from a garden centre, that did actually manage to produce some rather interesting fruit. The plants grew well, they were tall, and rather robust. I think the key however, was the restriction of the roots. So this is what I will be doing this year. I know it’s a little late, I should have perhaps sown them about a month ago. There are four varieties, and about four of each have been sown. I’m hoping that they will germinate, and then we shall see exactly how many we get. I don’t expect to be keeping all 16 would be plants. That would be a lot of aubergines, I might have to share the seedlings if they manage to grow.

NaBloPoMo_GROW_april

#NABLOPOMO: Compost clear out

I’m not very good at composting. I have two daleks on the plot, they have been in the same position for the last four years, they get filled and pretty much left to their own devices. I do add all the green waste that I can get my hands on, it is layered as well. Rather than put in, in an ad hoc fashion. I even have organic activator that gets added from time to time.

It is predominantly green garden waste and the occasional set of veggie peelings that gets parcelled up and put in. No food, very few onion skids and nothing cooked or citric. These can not only invite unwelcome guests, acidity can rather upset the worms that end up living in the compost bin.

Ma and I went today, the bells of the local church was tolling for Easter services. Ma wanted to pull up grass and weed, I probably should have had a job in mine too. The plot varies in level all over. Yet there are very obvious dips, where at times the soil is liable to flood and very little grows there. In emptying the daleks, I could actually start build up one bed on the top part of the plot that is always soggy, and doesn’t facilitate an awful lot of cultivation. And I also manage to put some into a 1mx1m raised bed that will also have some MPC put into it.

I was rather pleasantly surprised by the contents of the two compost bins. Firstly, by the fact that things have actually decomposed, and produced rather full bodied, fine tilth in places, compost. Secondly, the volume. I had easily six or seven full wheelbarrows full of compost that were trundled across to whether the plot dips. This dip, incidentally, is where ma has put her rescued spinach. I don’t want the plants to be dead before long, so this area would benefit from the extra support. Hopefully these will now start to be filled and the cycle will start again. I have chose to move the daleks, to where they can easily by unloaded. This means the dips and areas not yet cultivated. I am also thinking, of how easy it might be to use a compost bin to grow squashes. If the contents of the bin were covered with a mound of  MPC and a squash plant stuck on top. Apparently this can  be done!