Planning post puddles

As I sit here, planning world domination, sleet falls outside with the weather being its nefarious wanton self. Spring seems to be hiding its face, as further inclement weather hits blighty.

Should the weather change the face it currently pulls, it would be nice to get things going. As it stands, the classroom sills are full of seed trays. The windows are not in the least bit big. Lyon 2 Prizewinner leeks are still standing, very wiry young things that they are. Don’t seem to be getting any fatter, and further towards the pencil thin girth that they need to have. The cauliflowers that were sown, purple cape, mayflower and all year around, grew very leggy. Subsequently keeling over. Celery, remains, as does the beetroot. At last check, the aquadulce claudia broadbeans and suttons dwarf were just starting to poke their heads through the dirt in the paper pots.

The chilli adventure is still altogether frightening. At the last observation, five baby seedlings had stood up. The paper pots were removed from the heated prop and into a cold one, lined with white paper by way of reflecting heat and light. They had keeled over previously, in not being warm enough or having adequate enough light.

I would like to sow more cauliflower, and in turn some some tomatoes. There are still lots of other things to be sown too. Such as cabbages. I must still fill the raised beds. Damp lead mold has been used to get the raised beds at least a thirdish, or half full. Poop-that pops and I gathered-has then be used to cover the top of this. I have one bag left to pour into a be. Beyond that, I envisage topping the beds up with compost. Not filled entirely, but enough to get sowing. An aim, had been to sow various spinach seeds and fenugreek for Mama H. That would truly mark the start of the sowing season.

Last week, I took delivery of potatoes and spring garlic. It is most likely too early for either of these to be sown. The potatoes may well find themselves in the raised beds somewhere. I’m not sure where. Whilst I have garlic, these will replace those many that were eaten by the elements. However, I feel the section of the plot designated to them, may well be too wet, and not able to drain as quickly as I would like.

Thinking now, as to how many tomato seeds I wish to plant. I have both cordon and bush varieties. Yet, hobbitland is a blight hotspot. There yellow, red, and black tomatoes. So a veritable mix. These will be started off inside, and might just make it outside. Last year, they got to about 12 inches high inside. All very nice, but butchered by the weather, and therein a horrible waste. In the seed stashers, a hoard of beans to be sown. I don’t anticipate doing them yet. But will consider do so, in about six weeks perhaps. The mythology is to sow around the time of St.Patricks day.  This is most likely another paper pot job, one copy of an atrocious paper that will remain nameless, produces provisionally 50 pots. That is a lot of seeds. Mama H has made her opinion know. There are to be runner beans. Yes, Ma. I have those. The old favourite of Scarlet Emperor-the first runner bean that I ever grew-sits alongside one called painted lady. Furthermore, there dwarf varieties of French beans. Tender-something, as well as borlotto beans and purple queen. Though I can see Mama H pulling faces at the purple dwarf beans. Whilst I am convinced of their metamorphosis from purple to green on cooking, Mama may have her queries about them. Flicking through seed catalogues, I was trying to hunt down yellow ones.  The plan with the legumes, is to plant them where ever possible. The advantages of planting them by way of nitrogen tapping and its volume of doing so, are debatable  I was advised by an allotment neighbour, of ‘if in doubt, sow beans’, so this will be an interesting hypothesis test. Does the ground actually have better characteristics having formerly housed legumes. A half plot of beans may well seem a waste, but could potentially be useful. Having inherited a plot that is deemed a waste in itself, the challenge is to get something productive out of it. As it stands, garlic and onions have done well. Now the bar is set higher.

The snow is coming down apparently, outside. I do wish it wouldn’t. Makes planning that much more difficult.

Yours in anticipation.

After the freeze, come the thaw; and that means puddles

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After the freeze, comes the that. As you can see, that means puddles. Lots of them, and fairly deep too. I ventured down there today; it’s been over a week and a half since that snow fell. More than once, my wellies got stuck in the mud. On one occasion, I felt myself about to lose my centre of gravity. There would have been a splash, I tell you. I righted myself, and kept plodding on. Being heavy clay, the word plodding is the operative verb here.

The agenda, was to do something about the poop that Pops and I had gathered some weeks ago. An allotment neighbour had also found me some-from the same source-and was kind enough to stash it on the plot for me. I had to haul the bags towards the larger 2m x 1m beds. Today, four out twelve beds had poop added to them. I often feel that I have made a rod for my own back, in having so many raised beds, that subsequently need filling with dirt. The thought process required therein, was how that would happen. Two of the rectangular beds have poop in them, as do two of the smaller beds. A fifth larger bed, was filled entirely with a whole builders bag of leaf mold. I think that it roughly one tone of leaves. One is a little bit closer to having filled raised beds. The next part of the plan, is to use the remainder of the builders bag and the three bags that sit at the back of the plot. These are very heavy! I struggled somewhat with them today, there was way no I could physically lift them. So I will have to think of a creative way to fill a rectangular raised with them. it is the central bed, in the third picture that is left to fill with poo. I can have a bottom layer of leaf mold, and put the poop on top. There is some luck, in that the smaller beds, are already full of leaf mold. What they would need, is to be topped up with compost. Something to be done in phases, I think, over the next couple of months.

On the sowing front. The chilli adventure is altogether frustrating. Once out of the propogator, the baby chillies keel over on the window sill. They are probably too cold. Aquadulce claudia Broadbeans as well as suttons dwarf broadbeans have been sown. A good 53 paper pots worth of seed. One of the allotment neighbours shared the wisdom of ‘if in doubt, sow beans.’ I therefore intend to test this hypothesis. Further to this, there are baby cauliflowers. These are all year around, purple cape and I think, Mayflower. They took their time, as did golden self blanching celery. I will be intrigued to see how that copes really. And if the plot is always going to be wet, then maybe it has a fighting chance. There are also baby lyon2 prizewinner leeks. I don’t think mussleberg ones have taken off.

In another month or so, I will think about tomatoes. There are many different varieties in the seed stashers, and it would be lovely; if something actually came off. There are yellow, red and even black cherry tomatoes. In addition, there will be further beans. Dwarf french and also runner beans. Mama H has been really quite vocal about these. What can be envisaged, is lots and lots of dwarf beans all over the plot. This is going to mean alot of paper pots. Paper pots, that mama h has developed a technique for making. She simply takes the paper from me, as I try to make them; and makes them for me. Who am I to argue?

In the spirit of growing, I have also donated a batch of seeds to http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/seed-swap/68032-virtual-seed-parcel-v4-uk-france-3.html

As the growing season is only yet in its infancy; anything can happen.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Seeds: the next generation

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Image courtesy of @meandmylottie-joy topping

Not last year, the one before; through sheer fluke. I managed to cultivate a ghost rider pumpkin. Ma had picked it up on a visit to the local garden cafe, and it became a baby. The one fruit cam off, a 5lb beauty.

Now ghost riders are a carving pumpkins, they are not known for their edible qualities. That didn’t stop Ma and pops eating him over two days having curried him.

When Ma had sacrificed him, I asked that she kept the seeds for me. These were washed and dried and popped into my seed stashers. Then, with the help of the Grow your own grapevine forum, some of the seeds were donated to good homes. Some were fellow allotmenteers, as well as school groups.

What you see above, is a beautiful fruit, a product of our Bruno the first. This was grown up north of Blighty, way way up north. Made me feel very warm and fuzzy! Sadly, many other babies succumbed to the poor weather last year. Making the one above a true Titan.

I do have some mystery social science pumpkin seeds. Salvaged from a colleague who had the pumpkin for her tea. I couldn’t tell you what it was called.

Will have to find out!

Seed saving is incredibly important, I am very thankful to those lovely grapes who have donated their seeds to me. Is a message worth passing on

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Allotment wars: Battle field earth…heavy clay

Good old Aunty Beeb took her remit to educate, inform and entertain to a whole new level with this show last night. Out of curiosity, I was compelled to watch.

I am only in my second year of being an allotment holder, though I have been attempting to grow my own for a few years longer. That said, to date, I have had a very positive experience. There is nothing overt, that I can or would wish to complain about. I am very appreciative of the community that I belong to, despite the challenges that might be presented. Dodgy clay, occasional tutting and frowning not withstanding.

What allotment wars demonstrated-it’s on Iplayer somewhere-that the rosy ideal of allotmenteering is not the case. With shed break ins-swanky sheds, I hasten to add-a closed community attitude, and competitiveness that wouldn’t be out of place on a football field; such a documentary was best described as frightening.

Over the last few years, there has been increase in the demand for allotments. One could argue that this is product of the recent economic trouble. Perhaps it is, there may well be a correlation, between the economic down term and the turn towards GYO as produce becomes increasingly more expensive and people consider sustainability. The notion of having an allotment, is romantic. An activity, that during the war gave people the opportunity to contribute to the war effort, requires effort, commitment and some level of endurance. It also, perhaps mistakenly, has a reputation for being an old man’s game.

I am neither old, nor a man.

It still takes a bit of graft though.

The allotments featured, were pretty. I don’t doubt that effort and hardwork had been put into them. That was blatantly obvious. What took me by surprise, was the negativity, Yes, all right, the clue is in the title. But this begs the question. Why?

Why have such nastiness, a condescending attitude towards those that want to have a go, and most importantly, why pinch someone else’s veg?

The competition veg growing was amusing. The sheer work, shouldn’t be detracted from. That is commendable. I can’t get those sort of results. Good luck and well done, to those that want to, and do.  But stealing crops, by way of sabotage. That has to be despicable. The burning down of greenhouses, the weedkilling of tomatos. Pulling up of carrots. You couldn’t make this up, really. Perhaps Aunty Beeb did…who knows?

Then there was the spare boudoir, I mean the swanky shed. That’s lovely, it really is. But when it is broken into repeatedly, why have one? It was a nice shed, a well kept one. I had been debating the notion of having one. The Jury has been sent out again.

And the old boy network. Whilst there were two ladies, they were the only two. In addition, only one person who could be termed younger than the gentlemen of more mature years. The show demonstrated a very skewed representation of allotmenteering. For many, having an allotment is a positive experience. Some folks join gyms, others sow and harvest fruit and vegetables. You will always have horses for courses, that is the way life works. The show would have benefited from that, yes, I know it’s allotment wars. But why a war? That I really don’t understand. You’d think Allotmenteering had a seering dark underbelly that was once consigned to victorian social commentary a la Charles Dickens. It surely doesn’t!

May be, in the same vein as Freemasons, allotments need to open their gates; debunk and demystify their nature. Mud slinging, is probably not the best way. It’s fairly useful, mud. Just not in this case. What alarms me the most, is the programme. Bordering on sensationalist, tabloid, and gutter like, the montage of allotmenteering does it no justice whatsoever. Waiting lists have increased over the years, the quantity of plots does not meet the level of demand. With some sites, poorly run, others being tyrannical dictatorships, and attitudes within them being hard to encapsulate; a muddy and confused picture is what we have.

Aligning freemasons with Allotmeentering. What a scary thought!

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

January jeepers

You have seen the extent of the current weather and winter woes. Plot 2A  is currently under a foot of snow. There is not an awful lot I can do with that.

At the moment, there are various seeds sat on window sills. In the propagator, are chilli seeds. In the last week or so, a few have peeped out of the dirt. Only to keel over again, once on the window sill. A combination of poor light, and reduced heat is most likely what has caused them to keel over. I daresay that I will be sowing seeds again, as not many have yet removed their head from the dirt. Beetroot is germinating, cylindra and bonel were sown into modules about a week ago. As was self blanching celary, but this is yet to show it’s face

I have sown some cauliflowers, three different varieties. Mayflower, purple cape and All year around caulis have been sown and are sat covered on a window sill. I tried once upon a time to sow these, but didn’t know enough about their propogation. Fingers crosses this time. I will be intrigued to see whether or not they come off. For many, cauliflowers are a staple. What will be amusing, is if the purple ones come off. Yes, I am aware of the need for environmesh. I remember sowing Kohl Rabi and having an infestation of white fly thingies.

That will mean, that at some point; Cabbages will be sown. I’ve had very limited success with cabbages in the past. They’ve been eaten by slugs and snails despite blue pills, collars, ceramic tile bits and beer traps. I am convinced, that the hobbitland slugs are particular about the types of beer that one attempts to dose them with.

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Well, If I’m not going out there, I’m not going to the plot….

The home wendy house is at least standing, compared to the one on the plot.

The seed stashers are bulging, with lots and lots to sow. With the snow, that is not going to be easy. Let’s hope it clears, and soon….

yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

White Stuff landeth

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Somewhere under all that is my plot. The white stuff has been falling for a few days more. We are expecting further snow over the next few days

I made a quick dash down there, a very brief stop. Walking down there, the snow was easily up to my ankles. Blighty is expecting about a foot of snow to fall. It was bad enough that we had seen that much rain.

The plan had been to get some compost to start filling the raised beds. For the moment, there is manure to part fill them. We shall have to see!

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

“Roses have thorns and silver fountains mud”

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“Roses have thorns and silver fountains mud”

Planted out the following roses:
2 xRosa garden princess
2 xRosa dame de coeur
2 xRosa Joro
2xRosa queen of England

These eight roses are purchased not from a poundshop, but the one where you get a penny change from a pound. The ones listed below are from the poundshop.

3 x Red Beauty Roses
1 x Pink Rosa
1 x Kronenbourg rose

In addition there is one each of Blue Moon Christian Dior, Harry Wheatcroft, Silver Jubilee, Dutch Gold, Pascalli, Peace, Lovers Meeting, Double Delight and Ruby Wedding. These are the slightly posher roses, and have been in the ground since the autumn. They are significantly bigger than the cheaper more recently acquired roses. Perhaps as the earlier ones are the product of a sturdier producer.

I never intended having so many roses on the plot. In the first instance, it was a whim, a case of why not. They are pretty. Perhaps they’d form a nice enclosure, and be a barrier against the wind. Then I remembered that certain value shops, have roses in at some point in the year. I had seen them, not thought much of them. There are even a couple in pop’s back garden.

Something of an interesting hypothesis test can be carried out. Whether or not the posh roses can be compared with the ones that are less so. Will certainly have to look at what these varieties need in terms of care. There are many who believe that Rose management is both an art and a science.

For the moment, as snow threatens to descend upon the plot; I have plugged in and will see what happens.

Monday, that’s when Blighty will have snow. Brace yourselves.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Chilli and Pepper adventure 2013

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Last year, I was all very conscientious. By New Year’s Day, I had sown both chillies and tomatoes. The latter, died, as they were sown a bit too early. I had to resow. With the chillies, I was able to get them to the stage where they formed a second pair of true leaves. I had potted them on just after they had gone past their baby seed leaves. Then, I had also sown them in yogurt pots.

This year, the varieties are the same. You can see what I have sown in one of the images. A different variable is that they are being sow into those paper pots that were made. Dampened, they go into the heated prop.

Chilies are not something that I feel are straight forwards. I find them challenging, in that they don’t always germinate. Some chillies have a different ‘cracking’ point in comparison to others. Then you need to have heat to make sure that they are loved. Whilst I say chillies, I’m including peppers in that. There a number of sweet peppers, in addition to the one bell pepper.

To think that it all started way back when, with these things.

I was rather disappointed with what happened last year. These will be taking up window sills in the classroom hopefully, and not be seeing the Wendy house. All being well, they will be joined by tomatoes in a few weeks. If the seeds were sown now, I do think they would keel over.

It would be lovely to get a nice crop of cayenne and bells. A handful were produced in the first year of hobbitry, but none since. Diddly bells have been produced but nothing big.

Here’s to this years chilli adventure,

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Paper pots, preparation and potage

Buying pots, can be expensive, You then have to store them as well, when you are not using them. This is the same with yoghurt pots, they have to be retrieved from Pop’s shed. The notion of paper pots, is therefore a little interesting. As cutesy wutsey, as they may seem. They are arguably easy to make-even if Mama H does take it off you and do it properly-I did spend some time making them once she had given me proper instruction!

I had ordered the paper pot maker some time ago, on a whim really, after some positive feedback. Only now, with the New Year and the New growing season, have I given the device any thought. Reaching for an old newspaper, I went about testing it. As you see above, Mama H sought to test it before me. There are somethings that only mothers can do, testing new toys is definitely one of them.

She was kind enough to sort out a few, and instruct me on then. I was then left to my own devices, whereby I fashioned a fair few pots from the leaves of the newspaper that remained. A most therapeutic and somewhat addictive. There was a feeling of being bereft once the paper had run out. All in good time, I’m sure I will soon enough have more paper than is required.

It has been a hypothesis for some time, to have on plot 2a. The issue at hand, is whether or not they would survive. Purchased today, all rescue mind:

  • Chives
  • Thyme Doone Valley
  • Lavender Munstead
  • Russian and French Tarragon
  • Common and Golden Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano

And last but not least, Victoria Rhurbarb. Bit of a bargain, at 75 pence, and therefore a bit of an impulse.

These are now all stored for safety in the four tier blowaway in the garden, before they are planted on the plot. I have no idea where I shall put them. Only that there will be some for herb enclave. My fear is that they will be eaten by not only the clay but also the inclement weather. The herbs are hardy, but this plot takes no prisoners and is likely to eat them if they are not tempered.

We shall see, if they work.

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

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