Prepare soil now and plan ahead for a year-round harvest
Vegetables need a sheltered, sunny spot to flourish, so use a windbreak on exposed sites. Buy a soil-testing kit to work out the pH of your chosen area – for most vegetables this lies between 6 and 7 (slightly acidic). You may need to add more lime or iron sulphate to shift its pH towards neutral.
It’s easier to grow crops in narrow beds than open ground; you can reach plants without treading on soil and organic matter can go where it’s needed, not wasted on paths. Beds don’t have to be edged; just tread down paths initially marked out with string. You can easily step over 75cm (30in)-wide beds, but you could go up to 1.5m (5ft) and still reach the centre of the beds from adjacent paths.
Traditional soil preparation involves digging over the site and incorporating lots of well-rotted organic matter into the top 30cm (12in) as you work. If you find it hard to dig or wish to try the no-dig method, spread a layer of cardboard over weeds or turf and cover with a thick layer of homemade compost, well-rotted animal manure, leafmould, spent mushroom compost or council green waste, around 10-15cm (4-6in) deep. You can then plant and sow directly into this compost.
A glorious May day with stunning gardens and on my birthday too.
My personal favourite was the David Harper Savills garden by Nic Howard as I just loved the sculptures. Close second is M&G Sarah Price garden with its rammed earth walls and mediterranean planting. The Seedlip by Catherine MacDonald was really creative and based on peas. All the gardens were lovely so its always worth a look. Here’s my gallery for you to enjoy…
It poured with rain, it froze, it snowed and the tail end of hurricane what-ever-your-name-is lashed its vicious tongue all across the land. That and a brief spell in hospital meant that it wasn’t until the 28th that it was nice enough to spend a pleasurable afternoon up at the allotment. I cleared away the bean poles, dug over some of the beds and have come to the conclusion that a bag of mulch spread over the area in the summer was worth every penny. Not only did it keep the weeds at bay but also kept the moisture in. This has saved me a lot of backache on the digging front. This lot in the photo above took me a couple of hours to thoroughly get rid of the weeds.
The storms that raged in January were Storm Eleanor, Fionn, David and Georgina. I’ve renamed the collective word for storms in January as Daisy as you can’t get angry at Daisy.
The wind had done a bit of damaged with broken frames and tangled nets. But nothing too serious. At least I’ve still got some brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots to harvest. In fact my butternut squash has stored well and so even in January I was able to cook my own produce. Well done me!
Stuff I’d over looked in December were two packets of camassia bulbs. They were bursting inside their packets so I quickly stuffed them in some pots so at least they had a chance of survival. I’m hoping that in the spring I can put them in the front garden with the others.
Its February just around the corner and no doubt more love will be bestowed upon my plants and seedlings as February is when I get sowing.
Twice it has snowed in December! This doesn’t happen often and is so exciting when it does. I have created a Christmas dinner bed and noes the time to harvest. Although to be practical I couldn’t grow it all in one bed as roots and brassicas don’t have the same needs and my Swiss chard got shaded out by the Brussels. But under that snowy blanket lie the brussels and broccoli, then a discrete breathing space before rows of parsnips. The carrots needed a less fertile area plus different netting needs. Those carrot fly never give up and so they were sown in an adjacent bed.
My Christmas trug looked a treat though and worth all that effort.
Those parsnips weren’t the usual pointy shape. I suspect that I didn’t prepare the ground well enough. But they tasted fantastic roasted.
Disaster were the leeks who came out in an infestation of onion leaf minor and the whole lot rotted in the ground before I noticed. I had to destroy the lot and realise that I’ll have to give leeks a miss next year in an effort to quarantine the area.
Highlights of 2017 were a trip to the Chelsea Flower show, courgette cooking mastery, saucing endless tomatoes and general faffing in my small town garden. I’m happy with what I did last year and vow to spend more time up at the allotment so that problems get spotted before they get out of control. I’m pleased that I’ve set up a better composting system and pleased that my crop rotation study will improve things hopefully.
There comes a time when you have to get down and dirty and back to basics. I mean getting to grips with the soil and its need for nutrients. This reality hit home after a second year of poor sweetcorn yields and I just knew that the only soil-u-tion was digging in compost or muck. This has caused many a dilemma. For years, because of the bad access at the plot , I’ve used chicken manure pellets tossed about the place randomly. So its time to get serious and crazily enough I have a compost heap already that was full but I couldn’t get in it to dig it out.
A single compost heap will not do either as digging out the lovely stuff underneath meant climbing in and removing the top rotting layer. So I hadn’t basically.
I spied a few pallets at the back of where I worked and so armed with a tape measure was able to pick out three matching palettes. I don’t need massive pallets either as I well never fill them in one season.
I only needed three so that I’d have brilliant access.
Positioning I placed the new pallets at right angles to the old compost area so that any inter-shoveling between compost areas would be easy. I simply tied them together with a corner stake that I hammered into place.
My original enclosure was modified by sawing the top three rungs so that I could get a shovel in easily. I sorted through what was there and am pleased that loads of lovely crumbly black gold is now ready to use.
Now that I am sorted with the hardware the system is obvious. New vegetation, kitchen scraps and non-weed matter goes in the new compost enclosure while I dig out the old and use its bounty.
Dog and Cat Poo. But horse, cow, chicken and rabbit droppings are great.
Tea and Coffee Bags. Rip open the bags and empty out the grains and discard the bags.
Citrus Peels and banana skins.
Onions and potatoes if left whole. This is because they might continue to grow so squash them up.
Fish and meat scraps.
Glossy or coated paper.
Sticky Labels on Fruits and Vegetables.
Coal fire ash.
Sawdust from treated wood.
Perennial weed seed heads or roots. I don’t want to risk that pesky bindweed any opportunity to multiply.
A compost recipe
Combine green and brown materials (no poo). Brown being garden soil that will contain microbes and good bacteria and even lovely worms
Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge.
Stir it up as that will get everything in contact with all the good bacteria
When is looks like its rotted down use it! Don’t worry if there are bits of twig etc as you can always sieve that out.
Bulb planting time and I am joined by a cute little robin. I had only recently learned why robins like to accompany you whilst gardening. Obviously I have just disturbed the top layer of soil and by doing so made all those tiny insects and worms available to feed on.
But where did this little chap learn that if it hung around with the humans maybe it’ll get a cheap dinner? In ancient times robins used to follow wild boars as they scavenged the top layer of ground for roots, fruits and maybe a truffle or two for tea. Robins learnt not to be afraid of these large animals and so grew confident with their company. Now don’t you go and compare me to a wild boar though my hair has been particularly ravaged on this gusty October day. You could say I’m sporting a wild look, but that’s where it ends. I’m happy for my little robin to follow me about. It makes a funny little chirp and curious vibrating flutter when it’s about to join me. I don’t hesitate to talk to it either. That’s not because of modern folklore’s theory that it’s a dead relative visiting. It’s a robin wanting a good old feed before winter and I’m happy to oblige.
Oh leeks why for art thou ruined? The allium leaf miner is the culprit. It has munched its way through my lovely leeks! i done lots of research and basically I need to destroy the lot to break this little critters life cycle. plus in future not only do I need to cover brassicas and carrots in netting but now alliums too. This teeny little thug reached the UK in 2002 and has spread around the country at an alarming rate.
So how am I going to beat this pest?
So how am I going to beat this pest? This beastie appears in March and April having overwinter in the soil. The female flies lay eggs near the base of young leek plants and makes small punctures in the onion/leek leaves in order to feed on the sap. This is where further rot can get in too and so when I harvested my leeks I notice a brown trail where the grub had munched its way into the juicy fleshy bit. When I pulled off the outer layers a small dark rice-grain-sized brown pupae wedged was between the rotting layers.
Preventing the allium leaf miner from causing damage is to prevent the flies laying eggs. I’m going to cover the crop with insect proof mesh / fleece during the two risk periods that is March to April and mid September to mid October.
Or plant onion sets and leeks after the first danger period has passed and harvest before the second danger period occurs in September / October.
You may have noticed that Halloween has revved up a gear this year. Don’t be tempted to buy one of those fake pumpkins down the garden center, please buy a real one and carve it yourself. Its so much fun, really cheap and a chance to be creative. Plus when you’ve finished you can leave the pumpkin out for the wildlife to feed as squirrels love them. It doesnt stop there either you can plant one up with with plants for a dramatic effect and lastly they make good compost. So just do it!
A traditional design with freckles!
What a mess, but be sure to keep the seeds.
Biro cases were used for spikes on my pumpkin hedgehog
All together and they look fantastic.
So proud of my hogs.
Any pattern can be achieved with an apple corer and a drill
Its easy to add an ikea cupboard light
When they haven’t made the grade, plant them up. Funky hair-dos and crazy plants will last all November long.
Not everything in life is a bed of roses, so the saying goes, and so the day after the Chelsea Flower Show my step father died. It has been awful witnessing someone slowly be destroyed by Alzheimer’s and so things have been put on hold a little bit. I still had to work but suddenly I had also had a new set of carers to organize for my 91 year old Mum. It didn’t go well as I had to sack two. One for taking my mums bank card and PIN number, the other for allowing the carpet man swindle £240 cash from my vulnerable mum.
The responsibility has been overwhelming and took a toll on my health. But I managed to get though it and out the other side. My salvation is to loose myself in my gardening, it really is the best therapy. Things didn’t stop and I still have issues to solve but the garden soldiered on….
I did a bit of a revamp in a dull area of my jungle garden.
Then there wasn’t a shortage of cut flowers. Calendulas and zinnias performing brilliantly…..
Calendulas and erygium and curious wild unidentifed flower.
Veggies started to yield and often I was badly prepared for harvesting but nothing got wasted…
Ok, I did give away some of the cucumbers but the rest were eaten fresh or baked and frozen.
So strange times came and went. I’ve been sad and stressed by other things, my allotment kept me focused. Even though I had to force myself to go there I always ended up feeling proud and positive and darn right happy! 😀
Whats it like to have ‘grounds’ rather than a garden? Is your space so vast that you go out for a fag round the back of the maze? Staff is almost always required and so we take a peak at Lady Delphinium and her days instructions for the head gardener Benson.
Springwatchis all the rage, Lady D didn’t want to miss out….