Even Rainy Days Are Allotment Days

It’s dark and uninviting outside, and according to the weather forecast the cold nip has been replaced by milder temperatures, although it still feels nippy to me. I don’t mind the cold if I’m wrapped up with plenty of layers on but the rain is back which is just miserable. Allotment mooching is out of the question today, I can’t really do much on the plot at the moment but I do love to potter around and randomly poke at the soil, wiping my muddy finger tips on my clothes then wondering how the mud got there.

Seeing as it’s pouring down I decided that I would still have an allotment day but from the comfort of my home, going through my seed stash to get organised for the growing year ahead. January is a great month to think about and make a list of the things you’d like to grow and the seeds you still need to source. The first Coronavirus lockdown last March made it tricky to get things such as seeds (due to panic buying, staff shortages/illness, rise in vegetable growing and concerns over food shortage), I usually make a list early on in the year and then take my time gathering the things I need, however I feel a bit rushed to get my seed order in earlier than I would normally and I have already made a start buying certain seeds such as parsnip, carrots and sweetcorn which are best sown from fresh seed every year. I do collect seed where I can, particularly from beans, non F1 hybrid tomatoes and flowers, but not from pumpkins and squash which can be promiscuous so you never know what you’ll end up growing! I lack the skill and time to ensure no cross pollination takes places in my pumpkin patch, I tend to grow so many varieties it gives me a headache even thinking about trying. 

So after a good sort through my seed boxes I pretty much have all that I wish to grow this year, I have plenty of usable seed left over from last year which is great and I just need to put in a very small order to a particular seed company that I like but it’s proving a bit difficult due to the volume of orders they’re currently receiving. A repeat of last year. Hopefully I will make it in time to the next open slot on their online shop before the shutter comes down. I’ve already got my seed potatoes from a local garden centre, stock is running low on them already where I live. I will write another blog post with my full list of what I plan to grow this year once I have everything in place. Ooh look at me getting all organised!

Are you experiencing problems sourcing seed or other garden-related things?

Allotment Addicts

Allotment Addicts is a discussion board (if you wish to) and photo sharing group on Flickr, created by little ol’ me. If you already upload photos to Flickr and love taking photos of your allotment, seedlings, harvests and of course the all important shed, pop along and join Allotment Addicts group and share your allotment photos with other members with the same interests.

Flickr is free to join if you fancy signing up, you might even make new friends!

http://www.flickr.com/groups/allotmentaddicts/

I look forward to seeing you there!

A Very Messy Leek Lesson

A third lockdown for England was announced by the Prime Minister on Monday which comes as no surprise given the infection/death rate statistics and concern over the new virus strain. Allotments are classed as a form of exercise which means plot holders are permitted to use them, the very nature of allotments means close proximity to others can be avoided but of course we should still be sensible. I don’t know how often I will visit the plot because the weather has taken a wintry turn, no snow here in Bedfordshire yet but it’s certainly cold enough. It’s just nice to know I can go to my allotment if I want to, I feel very lucky to have it.

I did visit over the weekend to clear the leeks and it was a horrible job, most of the leeks were just soggy mush under ground and covered in allium leaf miner cocoons (yuk), the rest were formed but in a sorry state and not fit for eating even though they looked fine from above ground. On reflection I should have pulled the lot when I first realised the problem rather than leaving the ‘good ones’ in the ground in the hope they would recover from allium leaf miner and leek moth attack.

Soup anyone?

Allium leaf miner cocoon

Allium leaf miner cocoon on my finger for size comparison

Mushy leek

Visible cocoons of the allium leaf miner fly buried inside the stem of the leek

Don’t be fooled. this leek was full of hidden horrors!

I will now avoid growing the allium family in that particular section of the plot for a while, certainly not this year. I removed as many of the cocoons as possible from the soil along with the damaged leeks and took everything home with me to burn.

Going forward I will use a very fine mesh to cover leeks from the moment of planting, probably Enviromesh or similar. Apologies if the photos gross you out, it’s not something I find pleasure in photographing I can assure you! Hopefully you’ll never experience this, but sadly the two leek pests I mention in this blog post are becoming more widespread and our allotment site is now very hit and miss with leek growing without protection.

Stay safe, wrap up warm and carry on gardening (if you can) x

A New Year Begins

It was cold and frosty this morning, a fresh new year, very fresh indeed. My early morning routine is pretty much the same each day, I let the chickens out of the coops and fill up their feeders, on a cold morning I defrost the drinkers too. I don’t keep my chickens on my allotment, there’s not really enough space as our site and plots are on the small side, I’d worry about them too much anyway so I chose to keep them in the garden at home.

My chickens are also on lockdown, an outbreak of bird flu (becoming a regular occurrence at this time of year) means they’re not allowed to free range and have to be kept in a covered enclosure away from wild birds until it’s safe to let them roam again. Luckily my walk-in roofed runs are adequate for keeping my flock safe and unwanted creatures out. When I catch them sulking about the situation I tell them they’re lucky they can still mix with their friends! I will properly introduce my feathery friends on the blog at some point. 

Celeriac and carrot bed weeded and mulched with fresh compost.

I popped to the allotment this afternoon to do a spot of light hand weeding and grab a celeriac and some carrots to go with dinner. The ground was slightly frozen in places but the weeds pulled up easily enough. I love how clean the ground looks after weeding, wrapped up warm I really didn’t feel the cold and it felt good to be doing something on the plot.

Bean bed weeded, I still need to take the hazel poles down!

The leeks are one of the disasters of last year, thanks to leek moth and allium leaf miner. I gave the stronger looking plants a chance to see if they’d improve and some have but others really are just mush waiting to happen now, one small tug and they’ll disintegrate. I’ll be lucky to get a small batch of soup out of this lot. On a positive note I have fallen in love with celeriac after growing it for the first time. Looks aren’t everything, it’s true, for this rather ugly-looking vegetable is absolutely delicious roasted, I like slicing it up thinly and cooking it as crisps. 

My dad was on his plot today, he popped over with Jess the Border Collie to say hello from a safe distance before heading home.

Jess edged her way to the shed to check if I had any biscuits…

And…..

YIKES!!!!

It’s ok, I made it out of the shed in one piece! 

Happy weekend x

Beany Babies

Christmas has been and gone, it was certainly different this year. Today is my daughter’s 23rd birthday which makes me feel old, due to tier 4 restrictions all our plans and the chance to visit her went out of the window. One place I can visit is the allotment and to be honest I haven’t been able to stay away, a mixture of itchy fingers and checking the plots over for shed casualties due to storm Bella on Boxing Day. Thankfully my shed is still where I left it.

The ground is soggy underfoot so my short visits consist of pottering around holding a mug of tea, looking for signs of life emerging from the soil. Snug under the tunnel cloche the broad beans sown in November are peeking through the soil on Plot 11w, I had wondered if the seeds would rot due to the vast amount of rain since the sowing date, so you can imagine my delight seeing the first green shoots of the new growing season. 

For those wondering about my tunnel cloche, it’s simply a clear roof sheet held in a half circular shape using two metal hoops. Thick bendable wire would work just as well.

A tunnel cloche is very useful, I use mine for the following purposes:

  • Warming soil before sowing seeds
  • Keeping seedlings and seeds safe from cats/foxes disturbing the soil for toileting purposes (yuk)
  • Frost protection and overwintering frost tender crops
  • Preventing pigeons pecking crops and mice stealing seeds (block the ends off)
  • A shield against damaging rain/snow or prolonged spells of wet weather

I hope your Christmas was a merry one.