Thursday, March 21

Making a Radio Show

Monday saw us heading to the allotment at a ridiculous hour.
No the time on my phone isn't wrong - it really was ten past six in the morning. It was barely light and we should have been still tucked up and fast asleep.

So why were we up at such an unearthly hour? Last week we had a phone call from BBC Radio Leeds asking us to take part in their breakfast show. They were featuring allotments as one allotment site in Kirkless was taking on a legal challenge against Kirklees Council to try and prevent their allotment site being used for building. We agreed knowing that, as the show goes out live, this would mean being at the allotment site by 6:45 to meet Oly Woodcock, the reporter.

Arriving at the allotment we were treated to a view of our plot that we only ever experience at times such as this.
The sun hadn't fully risen but there was a glow in the sky. We weren't the only early risers as the birds were celebrating the start of another new day.

The radio car soon pulled in through the site gates.
Our first radio slot was timed for around 7:00 a.m. so there was just time for  reporter Oly Woodcock to set up the equipment in the back of his van ready for our interview to go out live.

Our first slot was fairly short and only really intended to introduce the subject that we were going to talk about during the second longer slot at around 8:00 a.m.

During the interval between slots, we sheltered in the shed with a coffee whilst Oly prepared for the second session and busily worked on social media, posting  on Twitter, Instagram etc, and taking photographs.
Oly listened for his prompt to start our second session which was delivered just outside of our shed.
Once that was over it was time for Oly to move on.
We have been interviewed for Radio Leeds a few times, mostly for the breakfast show at the same unearthly hour so we are hoping that next time, if there is in fact a next time, they could come to us later in the day, preferably during summer when the sun is shining.

During our interview, Martyn had his camera rolling  and the resulting video is posted on our vlog here.

Wednesday, March 20

Feeding time

Monday, March 18

Our comeuppance

We certainly got our comeuppance last week for all the progress made during the period of good weather at the beginning of the year. March has started off very wet and windy curtailing any more progress on the allotment.

The poor weather may have deterred us from working outdoors but it didn't deter our annual amphibian visitation which I posted about here.

We have thankfully got away without serious damage. A skeleton cold frame was mysteriously blown from one bed to another. We were rather bemused by this as we couldn't understand how the frame would offer enough wind resistance for it to be moved  such a distance. An old wheelbarrow full of soil, which I couldn't move without emptying it, was blown over and some pieces of weed control fabric were flapping in the wind but the only other noticeable wind casualty was that someone's empty dalek type composter arrived on our plot. I'm guessing this was retrieved as it has now disappeared.
There was more evidence of wind activity at one of our local garden centres where lots of pots of shrubs had been blown over.

We managed to visit the plot on a couple of afternoons to carry out a couple of tasks that the weather conditions haven't ruled out. The first was to plant some early Casablanca potatoes in tubs. For the time being they will stay in the plot greenhouse. 
Two seed potatoes have been planted in each of three crates. More details can be viewed here. Our other potatoes are still chitting in the garden greenhouse which is where they will remain until the beginning of next month.
The lettuce seeds sown last week have germinated...
... and the brassicas potted on last week are starting to cheer up.
The garlic that I planted  earlier in the year is now sending up strong shoots...
... and the English bluebells have started to put on a growth spurt.
We have sown our first lot of broad bean seeds. We don't sow any to overwinter.

On Sunday we managed to give our allotment shed a good clean up. We use it as a refuge when the weather is poor and sit inside for our coffee breaks so we like it to be fairly clean and tidy. 

That is about all the weather would allow us to do. The most important plot activity was to fit in a harvesting session on Monday before the really nasty weather set in.
At last we have managed to grow some purple sprouting broccoli and keep it alive long enough for it to start sprouting, so harvesting some shoots from our first plant was a major highlight of the week.
 The earliest of our rhubarb was also ready for us to start pulling a few stems.

We harvested some fairly small beetroot, that were planted fairly late, but they were plenty big enough to be worth harvesting. Martyn used one in a loaf of bread that he made.

The parsnips are starting to grow, they also have a bit of canker but the canker is only skin deep and the roots have not yet become woody so until they are no longer fit for the kitchen we will keep on cropping them.
We picked another red cabbage which was braised and some of it frozen. I also used some thinly shredded in a batch of curried coleslaw.
What could be more cheering during a generally, gloomy week than a bunch of freshly cut daffodils.
Finally here is our almost complete harvest posing for a group photograph. Can you spot what is missing?

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Friday, March 15

Our annual visitors blow in

When I went out into the garden the other night, I heard a strange sound that, at first, I didn't recognise. Martyn came out to listen and he just said, "They're back then."

Of course, the sound that I had heard was the frog chorus, although it would be more accurately described as a frog solo as the voice belonged to a solitary frog.

The next morning I went out, camera at the ready, to try to spot our visitor. Unless their attentions are busy with other more demanding activities, the frogs in our pond are ever watchful, and dive under the surface if a camera is pointed in their direction.

As it happens we spotted at least three frogs, and they had already been very busy.
A huge pile of frog spawn was nestled in amongst the watercress and, as we have noticed every year, the frogs appeared to be protecting it.
In previous years we have observed several frogs arranged around the spawn, all facing in different directions staring defiantly whenever we approached. It's another occasion when they don't automatically plop below the surface.

Despite the presence of ever hungry fish, some of the plentiful spawn will survive and return as frogs the following year.

This year the frog arrival is a couple of weeks earlier than last year, maybe they made good progress courtesy of the strong winds that have coincided with their arrival. I'm sure those large webbed feet would make excellent sails. There that's something to look out for in the future - flying frogs?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, March 11

A set back?

Well that will teach us not to be so smug at being ahead of the game this year. Last week we suffered a set back. The weather gods decided to teach us a lesson. They sent the sort of weather that prevents any visits to the allotment.

We did have one dry and sunny day but we decided to have the afternoon out at Clumber Park.
On our last visit the water birds were in abundance and making their presence known through their loud calls to one another. The smaller birds were constantly streaming to the log where we had scattered some tempting food. This time many birds and also many squirrels were keeping a low profile although some couldn't resist diving in for a treat or, in the case of the swan, admiring their reflection in the water.
The rest of the week has been wet and at times very blustery - not the conditions that tempt us out to do any gardening, except maybe a quick spell in the garden, in between showers, to cut back some of our roses.

The problem is that once the rain stops the plot will remain soggy for a while so our progress preparing beds and planting may slow down considerably.
The somewhat soggy plants on the other hand are made of sterner stuff and carrying on regardless.
The shrubs are also starting to flower, some like the camellia have decided to produce flowers a little earlier than usual. I hope that they don't regret it.
The hellebores are continuing to flourish despite the buffeting they are being subjected to.
The bluebells that we planted in pots are starting to grow quickly now and I am looking forward to being treated to their flowers in the near future.
One plant that thrives in the wet conditions is the moss which looks really pretty when it is confined to the right place.
We did manage a few gardening jobs inside the shelter of the garden greenhouse. For a few years now we have bought small early brassica plants. We never seemed to get the plants growing soon enough when we were growing them from seed. The plants arrived last week and so potting them up was a priority.
Calabrese Aquiles, Cauliflower Helsinki and Cabbage Regency

The plants may look a bit shabby at the moment after there journey through the postal system but they usually perk up and produce good plants.

Martyn, also sowed our leek seeds and a few lettuce. This year we are growing Musselburgh, Oarsman and Porbella leeks. We grew Oarsman last year but the other two varieties are new this year. Porbella is described has having good winter hardiness and resistance to rust. The claim for Musselbutgh is that the root system improves heavy soils. Our leeks often fall foul of rust and our soil is heavy clay so we will be interested to see how they perform. The cycle of life is emphasised by the fact that we are harvesting leeks at the same time as planting seeds to harvest later in the year.
The seed trays are covered with lids, not to protect them from the elements but to try to thwart any mice that are exploring the greenhouse on the look out for shelter and any tasty morsel that has been left unprotected.

Unfortunately we didn't manage to get to the plot to harvest any crops last week. We will have to pay a visit come what may this week as our supplies at home have run out. It's the downside of not growing your crops outside your own back door.

Friday, March 8

Daphne revival

It's over ten years now, since I was weeding in the garden and noticed a seedling that didn't look anything like a weed that I knew of. The leaves looked vaguely familiar and I had my suspicions about what it might be, but I didn't see how I could be correct.

Rather than removing the seedling I decided to let it grow, and as it did so I became more convinced that my original thoughts were accurate.

However it wasn't until 2009, when the seedling had become a small shrub, that the plant produced flowers.
The mystery shrub was in fact a daphne mezereum. So the next question was - how did the seedling arrived into our garden when as far as I know there are no daphnes growing nearby.

The only answer to this question was that we had been gifted it by a visiting bird. The bright red berries are attractive to birds.
Although all parts of the plant are toxic to us, birds are immune to the toxins. A bird must have eaten a berry and then deposited the seed in our garden.

The shrub is growing at the foot on an archway, in fact in a rather inconvenient position. Maybe I should have potted up the seedling or moved it further from the edge of the border but now it's too late for that.
Obviously our benefactor had been sitting on the arch when the seed was deposited. The photo on the top left of the collage is before the daphne was noticeable and in the other two photos you should be able to clearly see the shrub  growing on the right of the arch at the base of the support.

Regular visitors may remember reading this tale in the past, but the reason that I am repeating it is because, last summer I thought the plant had died through lack of water.
Gradually all the leaves turned brown and  curled up. The plant looked, to all intents and purposes, dead. However I was to be surprised as last month the plant seemed to be covered with buds and now the flowers are opening and new leaves are being produced.
It would seem that daphnes are pretty tough and this one definitely wasn't going to give up without a fight.