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Sunday, April 20


It's that time of year when it's all go on the plot - for us now is the time to lay the groundwork for a decent harvest to set us up for the year. It is why it is disappointing to see some vacant plots on our site waiting for new tenants. There is apparently a waiting list but as these plots wait for someone to love them they are gradually filling with weeds and time is running our for new tenants to get planting, (Maybe that is what the waiting list means - plots are waiting rather than wannabe allotmenteers!)

Anyway back to our plot. We sow most of our seeds at home in our garden greenhouse where we can look after them more carefully - a full list of our sowings is here but there comes a time when our fledgings must leave home and April is the time for the first departures.

Onion and shallot sets were started off in modules and have now taken up permanent residence on the plot. We have several generations of onions. The autumn planted ones are sprinting away now. We start using these as soon as they are big enough to be useable.
The next generation are the ones that were started off in modules and have developed a root system and made some growth - these have now been planted out. Then as always we end up with too many sets to raise as full sized onions and so these form the next generation. They are close planted and will produce small onions just right for pickling.
The garlic planted in autumn was doing really well until disaster struck. Our plot neighbour, Jan has given us some old fence panels with which to repair our compost bins. These were propped behind the garlic bed when the winds came along and - splat! - blew it on top of the garlic flattening it! We hoped it wasn't damaged beyond recovery and fortunately it has sprung back if not to its former glory something closely resembling it.
Potato planting is underway with one lot planted experimentally under weed control fabric. We chickened out of planting all the potatoes in this way until we convinced ourselves that this would result in a decent crop. Interestingly we watched Beechgrove Gardens the other night and they are trying out the same thing, - maybe they read Martyn's blog where he has already mentioned doing this.

Although the plum and greengage blossom is now fading the pears and cherry are looking beautiful.

The apples are also flowering - interestingly the sunny side of our apple hedge is well ahead of the shady side.

The bees are loving the bounty - such a pity that Wakefield council have decided no more fruit trees can be planted on plots. Its strange as they state they are all for promoting biodiversity and the blossom must be a lifeline for bees at this time of the year and as we all know these busy little insects need all the help we can give them.

Friday, April 18

Harlow Carr - Some highlights

If you follow Martyn's blog you will know that on Tuesday we visited our nearest RHS garden - Harlow Carr.

Having joined the RHS we decided that we would pay regular visits to Harlow Carr to see how the garden changes over the seasons.

Last time we visited at the beginning of March when the early spring bulbs were the stars of the garden.

We missed one part of the gardens during our last visit including this area.
For me the display of white daffodils, blue muscari and primroses were one of this month's highlights. This may well be a combination that I'll steal.
The clouds of snakeshead fritillaries were also a highlight. The pink and white flowers were naturalised in various parts of the garden.
Along the banks of the stream the unflatteringly named skunk cabbage - Lysichiton americanus grabbed attention. Fortunately the scent which is the reason for the common name wasn't apparent.
 Other plants which drew the eye were the mass planted erythronium Pagoda ...
 ... and various types of anemones...
Wood anemones - anemone nemorosa
Anemone blanda
and the bed of anemone de Caen that was full of flower on last month's visit and still producing a vibrant display.

Of course we did have to visit the garden shop just to see if there was anything we would like to buy - and was there? Well what do you think?

Thursday, April 17

An alternative to apple sauce?

Having lots of rhubarb at the moment, I was looking for different ways to use it. We have made crumbles, rhubarb compote and rhubarb crumble muffins will soon be added to the list but I wanted to use rhubarb in a more savoury way.

Being positioned right in the middle of Yorkshire's Rhubarb Triangle each year Wakefield hosts a Festival of Food Drink and Rhubarb. At one time it was just The Rhubarb Festival and one of the features was to produce a full dinner menu based around rhubarb. There were dishes for starters, main and dessert courses. I seemed to remember rhubarb and pork as a combination and so decided to try and find a recipe for a rhubarb sauce that could replace the more traditional apple sauce accompaniment for pork.

I found quite a few variations on the Internet many were really just the same recipes as we use to make compote and I wanted something a bit different. In the end taking bits and pieces from a few different recipes I came up with my own variation.

I'm afraid it's not very photogenic - maybe the later pink variety will make a prettier sauce.
I didn't really measure anything but to give you some idea. I fried a chopped shallot in oil to soften and added chopped rhubarb. Rather than adding water I added some white wine - just enough so the rhubarb would stew in it - about a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and sugar - about half weight of rhubarb. This was all simmered until the rhubarb was soft and the sauce thickened.

I was going to add some spices, ginger, cinnamon or cloves but decided to try that another time. Other recipes use orange juice as the cooking liquid or a chicken broth and also add mustard. I wasn't sure about the chicken broth or mustard. There is plenty of scope for a bit of experimentation.

My next project is to try making pork and rhubarb burgers. Our butcher makes pork and apple burgers so why not? I just need to decide which herbs or spices to use in the mixture

Wednesday, April 16

Words not needed!

Monday, April 14

What a difference the soil makes.

Most vegetable gardeners are familiar with the practice of adding lime to soil to increase the alkalinity in areas where they are intending to grow brassicas.

Wallflowers belong to the brassica family. I planted wallflowers on the plot last year in two different places which show how the plants react to differences in the soil.

The main planting was in a bed that had been used for brassicas. The plants here are strong and bushy .
Interestingly there seems to be no above ground signs of club-root.

I planted a few plants in the bed that houses our blueberry bushes. This is by the sitting area and I fancied being immersed in perfume as we sat having a coffee break. As blueberries are acid lovers we made an effort to increase the acid level of this bed and the plants are watered with a fertiliser specifically for acid loving plants. 

I didn't expect the wallflowers to like the conditions but thought it was worth a try.  What a difference these plants look like this.
One positive is that they do still give off a perfume but the poor things don't seem very happy. If we want some perfume in this area next year, I will have to try planting in a tub.

It does show clearly that if you want your brassicas to thrive you need to avoid acid soil conditions.

Saturday, April 12

Two busy afternoons.

This week we have had two very full and busy afternoons on the plot with no time to sit and linger over coffee.

Much time has been spent generally tidying the areas which haven't been subjected to the weed control treatment and preparing beds for planting.

I cleared any weeds that were growing around the Joan J autumn fruiting raspberries.
The main problem here is trying to get as much of the bindweed out as I can - I'm not naive enough to think I will totally eradicate it. Also some off the raspberry plants have suckered too far from the main plants and have needed replanting. Ignore the edge which still needs attention.

The newly planted summer raspberries have also been tidied and the overspill strawberry bed.
Most of the plants are shooting and have been given a feed to promote some strong growth to hopefully produce a good harvest next year.

One benefit of using the weed control is that we have time to give attention to areas previously neglected - like under the buddleia and potentilla bushes growing at the end of some long beds. Martyn has started to tidy them.
He has also been rotating the weed control fabric. As holes are plant specific these are moved to accommodate the appropriate plants. The fabric is taken up and soil given a light tilling and fertiliser applied before replacing fabric. Deep digging has not been necessary as the fabric seems to have protected the soil from been pounded by the rain. There is a marked difference between areas that have been covered and those that have not.
The winter onions and garlic needed a little weeding where the ground wasn't covered with fabric and they look very promising. It's a while since we had such healthy looking onions at this time of the year. 
It was funny to move on to planting out the summer onions and shallots after having only just worked on the autumn planted ones. The plants grown in modules have grown quickly and so have been planted out earlier than usual to prevent them from becoming pot bound. Still lots more are waiting to be planted.
It was when I went into the greenhouse to get the watering can to water the plants in that I made a surprising discovery. Believe it or not someone had been into the greenhouse and stolen one of our watering cans! Nothing special just an ordinary green plastic can!

Whilst I was planting onions Martyn was planting the first of our potatoes. We are trying a new planting method this year which Martyn has posted about here.

We also planted a globe artichoke that had been rescued from a clump of couch grass and nursed back to health in a pot. One for the bees so it's planted near the fruit.
Finally I'll leave you with a photo of the prettiest area on the plot at the moment.
The pears including the one blighted last year are in blossom and the tulips open. Pity in a short while this will have all disappeared but that's gardening!