Saturday, 29 March 2008

Child's Play

This year I have moved the beds that I have given to the children a bit further along the bottom of the plot. My daughter is next to the newly created spinach bed and my son is between her bed and the raspberries that I planted late last year.

Their beds are approximately 3ft deep and 4 ft wide

When they first took the space over it was overgrown with buttercups and bindweed. We pulled as much out as we could with our hands and then set about giving it a good dig. As this part of the allotment hadn't been dug last year it was quite difficult but we persevered and it has now all been dug over at least once. The next step is to "mash" it and then dig it thoroughly a few more times before giving it a top dressing of manure and probably a little polytunnel to warm the earth up a bit.

The children have done most of the work themselves and once they get going they really love it and are looking forward to planting their vegetables.

3 weeks later.....

The childrens beds are now completely dug and "mashed" and they have a very thick top dressing of manure and on top of that there is a thick layer of nicely decomposing leaf mould.

In a few weeks time we will plant their seeds, which are:-

red & white onions
spring onions

Needless to say they are very excited, and I can't wait for us to plant their seeds and watch them grow.

Monday, 24 March 2008


Great news! The seeds have now arrived and the packets have been "filed" in my biscuit tin under the various months that they need to be started off. I have sown a tray of tomato "Tamina", but as my greenhouse is unheated and the weather has been very cold just recently (the temperature doesn't get much above 50F), I am wondering if they will germinate or whether I shall have to sow another tray.

The onions arrived (all 450 of them) the day after the seeds and I have planted, at weekly intervals, 6 trays with 48 "Sturon" onions in each. This is a tip I have picked up from one chap at the allotment and the onions will root in the trays in 4-5 days or so and then will start to grow little green shoots from the top. Once they have reached 1-2" of green growth I will plant them out into their bed (no. 3).

I have given 40 onion sets to the children's school, 8 to my mum, and the children will grow 5 each. The remaining onion sets will be planted at further weekly intervals so that they can be harvested (hopefully) a week or so apart from each other and I don't get a massive glut that I can't keep on top of.

The potatoes arrived a few days after the onions and within one hour of receiving them they had all been set out in individual egg carton boxes to "chit", which will probably take about 2-3 weeks. My plan is to plant them at the beginning of April, starting with "Ulstre Sceptre" which is a first early.

The red onions "Red Baron" which I grew so successfully last year arrived on Thursday last week and I have planted 1 tray with 45 in it, and I will do the same with these onions as I have done with the white ones, and stagger the planting so that they can be harvested at intervals. The children will grow 5 each of these onions as well.

Because I ordered so many onions I received a free pack of 500g of shallots "Springfield" so I will plant them directly into the soil as they don't need to root first.

The 13 garlic "Thermidrome" bulbs are also ready to be planted direct into the soil once it has warmed up and it will go in a bed that I have prepared just under the herb bed. I read in Carol Klein's excellent book "Grow your own Veg" that garlic likes sand mixed with its earth, so I will try this and have dug in some sand to help them on their way.

The digging is going well and now most of the earth has now been dug, apart from the patch that I have earmarked as a salad bed. I have covered this with black plastic sheeting to suppress the weeds, and will dig it over later in the year.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Herb Patch

Next to my newly constructed leaf mould bin I marked out a bed which I want to devote to herbs. I love cooking with fresh herbs, so what better than to grow my own. It is quite a big bed at the bottom of the site, and wasn't cultivated last year so the earth was fairly hard and compacted. It was also covered with buttercups and the ever present bindweed.

My first attempt was to loosen the earth and turn it over to expose it to the weather - we have had quite a few mornings recently with a sharp frost - and that always helps to break down the ground a bit.

After leaving this patch for a week I then used the "masher" to break down the bigger clods of earth and then gave it a fairly thorough dig. Two trips to the bonfire site followed where the wheelbarrow was piled fairly high with all the weeds. I left it again for another week and dug it yet again and then gave it a very thick top coat of manure. I will leave this for a few weeks (probably until the end of March), let the worms get to work on it and then dig in the manure in readiness for planting some herbs. Some herbs I will plant direct into the soil and some I will start off in the greenhouse and transplant at a later date.

The herbs I want to grow in my bed are coriander, parsley, oregano, chives, garlic chives, basil and thyme. If there is any space left in the bed, I will fill it with radishes and spring onions.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Bin There

A very good friend of mine came to the allotment a couple of weeks ago (she made a "guest appearance" last year) and loves it so much there that every time she is in the country we try and spend a day there doing a few jobs.

Our plan was to construct a leaf mould bin, which we did as follows:-

We used 8 garden canes approx 3' high
chicken wire mesh with small holes

We threaded the canes through the mesh at intervals and hammered these canes into the ground at four corners to the desired size. A further cane was put into the fourth corner to make a sturdy edge and then the edges "sewed" together to strengthen the corner. The other canes were put half way along the outer edge of the bin to keep the edges straight. All in all it looks pretty good. As I had a couple of sacks of rotting leaf mould already at the top of the site, it was an easy job to empty the sacks into the newly made bin, give it a bit of a fork over and leave them to continue rotting. Job completed. Now I just need to collect the umpteen sacks of slowly rotting leaves raked up from my mum's lawn and transport them to the newly made bin.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Green Spaces

I ordered my seeds with great excitement at the end of January and was rather disappointed that after 3 weeks they had still not arrived. In previous years they would be with me within a week of posting them off, so I was rather surprised that they were taking so long. I decided to phone the supplier (I won't tell you who I use!) and after a little bit of questioning I discovered that my order had been sent to the wrong address - so someone has had a rather nice present of a few thousand seeds!

I was told that it would be another week before they would arrive as they had to do a repeat order, but that not to worry they would be with me soon.

Whilst waiting for the seeds to arrive I took the opportunity of clearing out the greenhouse and trying to maximise the space on the shelves as much as possible so that I can use every inch of space that I can.

I have one long shelf which is completely clear and is waiting (for the seeds to arrive!) and another shelf above which is a half shelf. This is at the top of the greenhouse just under the roof so it is quite a sun trap.

We also have a patio greenhouse which has 4 shelves in it and I use this for beginning to harden off plants once they have reached a certain size. I have also purchased a small cold frame (which I need to construct) and I will take this to the allotment for hardening off the plants completely before planting them out in their final positions. So they will go from greenhouse to patio greenhouse to cold frame to soil. Sounds a bit like a slow conveyor belt.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Marked Out

On Monday last week Peter came with me to the allotment for the first time in ages. Our mission was to mark out exactly where all the different beds would be and with the aid of string and sticks/skewers we marked out 4 main beds with paths of approx 18" between each one. We marked out a bed for strawberries at the top of the plot, a herb bed next to where the leaf mould bin will be, a spinach bed which is in between my daughter's bed and the second compost bin site (these are at the bottom of the plot).

It doesn't sound like much but it took us the best part of 1½ hours to decide, measure and mark out all these different beds with paths in between. It was a job that needed two pairs of hands.

We also moved the compost bin from the top of the site (which in future years I hope to make into a small flower bed) to the bottom of the site and have now started a second compost pile.

I have also acquired a wheelbarrow now that I have loads of manure to transport to the different beds, and I have to say that I wish I had bought one earlier as it's much easier to take rubbish to the bonfire pile in a wheelbarrow rather than drag sacks down the hill and empty them there. You live and learn.