Friday, 27 February 2009

What a To Do I had at the Allotment

Just in case it appears to have vanished into thin air, I'm posting a short update on last year's adventures at the allotment. I kept visiting the plot regularly until around May, by which time I'd finished all the major weeding and tidying which pulled it back to looking like a reasonably well managed plot. Technically it wasn't actually my allotment, but I was using the larger part of it in return for keeping it in a good state, thus saving it's 80 plus year old owner from getting untidy notices. So it was the end of May when I inadvertently crossed the invisible line and oops I dared to plant stuff. It quickly became clear that this was unacceptable. I received a stern talking to from the steward who let me know that as I wasn't an official allotment keeper I could weed and tidy but not plant. He'd been asked to tell me that the other allotment holders would all be keeping a close eye on me from now on. Being watched was one thing, but on my next visit it became apparent that other regulars had ceased to speak to me, and instead of an Hello I got lots of cold icy stares. It worked. I left and decided to concentrate my efforts in my garden for now. I've been on a waiting list for one of those allotments for three years, though now I wouldn't want one. Last summer there were still nine in front of me on the list and no one had given up a plot for the last two years, with most of the longstanding plot-holders having two or three plots each. Hopefully the new Landshare initiative will free up some space elsewhere in the locality. Happy Gardening!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Make Your Own Strawberry Planter Part 2

Some further ideas and more detail, due to lots of interest:
The structure of a strawberry planter is basic – it’s a container with holes in the sides as well as room to plant at least a few plants in the top. I had a look around the shed and found I already had a container that was perfect for the job. It was a pop-up bin made out of (plastic) tarpaulin with metal supports. I had bought two of them in a pack for a pound in a sale. I’ve since seen them for sale in bargain shops at two to three pounds each or two for a fiver. As long as you can cut holes in the sides without too much effort any type of container will do. Many types of plastic bin can be cut with a Stanley knife and a hacksaw, or a wooden barrel or planter is fine if you are handy with a drill and a jig saw (drill a few holes next to each other, then you can use the jig saw to cut the rest.) If you like a project, make the planter from old palette wood. You could even build a brick or stone one (like a barbeque but leave holes in the sides as you build up.)
Make the holes about three inches in diameter and space them six to eight inches apart in all directions. Make a couple of small drainage holes around the base so it doesn’t get waterlogged (if you live in the UK!)
So once you have got a container with holes in the sides, it’s time to fill it. There’s no need to buy large quantities of compost for this – you can use soil as long as you add some extra nutrients to it (strawberries are hungry plants).
Aim to end up with a fine crumbly mixture to fill the bin. If your garden soil is light and dusty, you’ll need to add something nutritious like manure or well rotted compost. If you’re using dried chicken manure, take care not to overdo it, a few generous handfuls will be plenty. Or collect some horse or cow manure from a nearby farm, it’s usually free. If you do this, try to get some that’s been standing a while, rather than fresh, as it will break down into the soil quicker, plus fresh manure will kill the worms in the soil if the horses or cattle have been wormed recently.
If your soil is heavy and lumpy, you need something to break it up a bit. Sand is a good quick fix, and calcified seaweed works well too. You can still add a bit of manure or compost, but go easy on it, the soil will already be quite rich.
So start filling your container and plant the sides as the soil level rises – it’s easier to put the plants in through the inside of the holes and then add more soil to fill. Finish up with the plants on the top, remembering to space them so they have room to grow. Finally water the plants (not too much), make yourself a cuppa and sit back and admire your creation!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Onion Planting and Making a New Path

Spent a great afternoon in the garden today. First day this year that it's been mild enough to stay out all afternoon, so I got lots done and worked up a bit of an ache.
I put the onions in, though it's a little early really,as my nan set the pace by planting her's last week. Dug over the bed for the peas, and am pleased to note that the soil is looking really good with it's texture finally starting to look crumbly and much lighter than previous years. All that trenching and composting is finally starting to pay off. It was also pleasing to see that systematic weeding has cleared the ground of well established root systems so there were only surface weeds to pull out and they didn't take long.
I took the opportunity to dig in some half rotted compost, while the bed was freshly dug. To be honest I just needed somewhere to dispose of it, as I'd discovered a half sack of semi rotten green waste left in a bin since last autumn. I can date it to last autumn as the whole contents were a distinctive pumpkin colour and I can remember gathering up all the pumpkin pieces from a mass pumpkin carving session. I probably don't need to mention that it stank, absolutely and completely. And that was before I disturbed it.
So I had to bury it, and fast! As I put it in the ground, I wondered exactly how many gardens this smell could taint. I kept expecting windows to be suddenly pulled shut and children to be called indooors. And of course I spilled some on myself, not just a wee bit either. Still such a mucky child, I managed to get it on every bit of clothing. I swear, that smell was worse than pigs for sticking relentlessly to you. I put everything in the wash, scrubbed and bathed and I could still smell it. Still can actually, I think it's lodged in my nose! Or my imagination!
Just for the record, I pruned back and mulched the raspberry cane before leaving the garden, and yes, I did put in a new path at the side of the pea bed.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Has it really been almost a year?

It's hard to believe I haven't posted for so long. The rain rain and more rain of last summer meant long absences from the garden until again I started to question was it all worth it. Did get a decent harvest of a few things though - the peas, which were done before the onslaught of water from the sky, were steady in their abundance for a month or so, the courgettes did OK, though finished early, waterlogged, beans were less prolific than usual, but still worth the effort, though they finished early too. And I grew spagetti squash for the first time : )
Mini corn cobs did well but the bigger variety didn't finish growing before the storms came in and all other squashes, butternut and pumkin failed after a promising start - they stopped growing but the giant snails and slugs didn't!
Oh yes, lettuce and tomatoes did well and at last I managed to grow an outdoor cucumber and a few parsnips, a couple of which are still in the ground. Also got some swiss chard still coming up and only recently pulled out the last of the turnips which turned out to be an easy and fast growing crop.
So fast forward back to the present; I've spent a couple of hours each day preparing the ground for this year - digging in manure, weeding and generally turning the earth over. It's great to have that outdoor time back again! Today the first of the planting - shallots and garlic sets. I'm holding back the onions for another couple of weeks, and starting to think about sowing toms and lettuces. Oh and the peas won't be far away either.