Friday, June 28

Pea Progress

We do seem to have developed a trend for poor pea growth. We used to be able to grow lots of strong healthy peas but over the last couple of years or so this ability seems to be deserting us.

Our first lot of seeds were planted in pots and transplanted. Like the carrots this year we are planting in 'trenches' cut into weed control fabric and this is definitely cutting down the weeds. Weeding around pea plants can be a problem as the plants are easily uprooted along with the weeds. There doesn't appear to be any detrimental effect on the peas which are growing as they have in previous years.

The first lot planted are now setting the first pods but the plants don't look as bushy as I would like with some lower leaves yellowing.

Another row of peas were sown directly alongside this batch and are germinating well. I wonder whether these will produce better plants.
No weeding of either row has been necessary so far. 
A third lot are waiting in the cold frame to be planted out.
At the moment these look strong and healthy so it will be interesting to see how they fare once out in the big wide world.

A fourth batch have been sown direct and is just starting to come through although there are gaps in germination and we suspect something has been nibbling.

Then there are the mangetout and Sugar Snap peas which don't look very happy at all. Again these were good strong plants when set out.
Now they look like this.
I've direct sown some more seeds alongside these plants so maybe this will give them the hint they need to kick start into growth!

If you want to check on any varieties of seeds that we sow, we have a full list here. 

Thursday, June 27

Not what I expected.

When I cut open a new bag of New Horizon Compost, I didn't expect to find this.

Apparently this kind of growth is quite normal and I should ignore it and it will go away. Must admit though I was a bit taken aback when I first opened the bag.

It does explain the 'mushroom' smell and the tiny 'toadstools' that we have found growing in some seed trays before the seedlings germinated. 

I must admit to not being greatly impressed with the types of compost available. The texture just doesn't feel right and plants grown in it soon need supplementary feeding. What's more it seems to be a highly desirable home for masses of fungus gnats - not great if used for houseplants. It also requires a bit of experimentation when watering.

New Horizon seems to do well in the various compost trials that I have seen on TV which is why we use it but it seems to vary considerably from one bag to the next. Maybe this is because the green waste used in the mixture is a very variable ingredient. 

Has anyone found a multi-purpose compost that performs consistently well? Please don't suggest we use home made compost as we just couldn't make enough.

Wednesday, June 26

Flowers on the plot - Self sown and roses


Tuesday, June 25

Weeding Part Two - Alliums.

Lets start with the autumn planted onions that should be producing a bounty any day soon. Should be but they won't - we'll be lucky to harvest a handful. The photo below is of one of the rare clumps of those that deigned to grow.
As you can see the sets were planted through weed control fabric but I don't think this caused any problem. After the sets were planted the weather just wasn't conducive to plant growth.

The garlic planted in the same bed has, on the surface, fared better and is growing well. Early Purple Wight is producing scapes which I know some people harvest. Do you?
Apparently I need to wait until the leaves start to yellow before harvesting when I hope the bulbs will be of a better size that those grown in a trough in the greenhouse. I think we left them inside for too long and sort of ignored them as there was too much else going on. I think next year all my garlic faith will be placed in direct planting outdoors.

We planted our onions and shallots in two batches - well I suppose three really. The first two lots were started in modules and planted out - again through weed control fabric. The first lot are doing well and a few weeks ago had a few annual weeds removed from the planting 'trenches'. Shallots are growing along the outer edges and onions in the centre rows.
The second lot of sets probably had to hang around a bit too long in modules as the poor weather meant their intended bed was delayed in being prepared.
These are just beginning to pick up and start growing with the shallots producing stronger growth than the onions. The red onion variety has a few failed plantings. It does seem that red onions are more tricky to grow than the yellow varieties. The white varieties seem the most temperamental and this year we have given those a miss. These were weeded last week for the first time. Again mostly annual weeds such as chickweed and creeping speedwell.

We had lots of sets left over and so these were just planted almost touching in a shallow trench and are now growing well in spite of being planted well after the ones started in modules. We've only used the weed control fabric for the lettuces in this bed.
They look to be growing thicker but bare in mind that the sets are very close together. This method has worked in the past to produce useful small size onions. In fact last year these stored much better than the ones that grew to 'full' size.

What I am hoping is that the weed control fabric will cut down on the time needed for weeding and so in areas that are uncovered I can catch the weeds whilst they are small. 

Monday, June 24

Weeding Part One - Carrots and Parsnips

The weed control fabric so far is cutting down quite a lot on time spent weeding.

Where plants are planted through crosses in the fabric we haven't had to do any weeding at all but where the seeds or onions sets were planted in long 'trenches' some light weeding has been necessary. The advantage is that the area between rows which is covered by the fabric doesn't need weeding and it is easy to tell where the row of seedlings is. 

The carrots have been weeded twice since sowing. Once as they were just coming through and then again last week. The carrots are growing really well and the weed growth definitely seemed lighter even in the soil 'trenches'.
There are one or two gaps in the growth which seem to have been selected as slug dinner and so I have sown some more seed to try and fill the gaps. I only managed to accidentally uproot about four baby carrots. But at least it proves carrots are forming. We don't bother thinning the seedlings - haven't done for years now - as we have found that good sized carrots form anyway. They may not always be beautifully shaped and some end up cuddling their neighbour but we are growing to eat not to show and so don't mind.
Excuse the dirty finger which is just to give some idea of size. Now all we need is for the roots to just keep on growing.

Onto the parsnip which are now growing well. The white boards are just holding down the fabric and will be removed when the parsnips have grown a little bigger.

Most of the weeds growing along the trenches were small annuals that were fairly easy to remove. I had intended to thin out the seedlings but they seemed to be fairly well spaced and so I left well alone. It is maybe worth repeating something you may already know about parsnips i.e. if sap from the plant gets onto your skin when the sun is shining - even just a little - you can be seriously burned. I've seen the results of this on a plot neighbour's arms.  For more information Google parsnip burns and you will have lots of hits.

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

Sunday, June 23

Sizergh as in Wiser

Last week we visited the National Trust property Sizergh Castle Gardens. We just happened to be in the area with time to kill and so decided to pop there for lunch and a look around. 

I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce the name but we were greeted at the entrance with a "Welcome to Sizergh" (Sizer) and so now I know - why did they add the gh?

The castle and part of the gardens are closed on Fridays and Saturdays which didn't really bother us as we weren't interested in looking round the castle. As for the off bounds bit of the gardens - we think we may have inadvertently strayed into one part. We weren't the only ones so I blame poor signage. It was only when we later consulted the plan that we realised that we may have trespassed. One advantage of this was that we got to watch the coot families on the lake! 
Martyn took a video of one chick trying to dive - it's here if you want a peep.
Anyway back to the garden - one tree that particularly caught my eye was this unusual chestnut.
It's Aesculus x Mutabalis 'Induta'.

As usual I took lots and lots of photos but will just share one or two (or three) here

If you want to see more photos I have added a photo album to my website page here. The video Martyn took is also on this page.

I do have to share one more photo though - just because of the effort taken trying to capture a shot.
This pond skater was a really challenging subject - they rarely keep still for long and I'd forgotten to switch my camera on to the burst setting - but to my surprise on viewing through the photos - I'd got one shot that wasn't just a patch of water recently vacated!

Saturday, June 22

Spotless foxgloves.

We have lots of self sown foxgloves on the plot which for the most part - unless they have chosen a really inconvenient spot - I leave to flower.
As I mentioned in a previous post each year I transport a couple of plants from the allotment to the garden. I have to take pot luck with the colour. This years transplants are the wild pink colour.
Originally we sowed two varieties of seed - Excelsior Mixed Hybrids and a shorter variety - Foxy. Over the years cross pollination has meant that we have ended up with a variety of colours. This year one plant has produced pretty bi-coloured flowers.
A couple of plants growing alongside one another have produced flowers with no markings on the throat.
As the markings act as honeyguides directing bees into the flower I wondered whether these would fail to attract pollinators, however, I saw bees still popping in and out of the florets.
Maybe the markings are still there and detectable by the bees; they can see ultra violet light and so can see colours invisible to us. Or maybe the bees pick up on the electric charge that is apparently given off by flowers that are ripe for pollination. 

The speckled flowers are certainly well attended.

PS: Guess what we had for dinner last night click here to find out.

Friday, June 21

They had to go out into the big world one day!

As well as having lots of baby birds in our garden, over the last three weeks we had been watching lots of young birds fledging courtesy of Springwatch cameras.

Well the time has come for our tender plants to fledge and face the cruel outdoor world of our allotment plot. Like the young birds theses plants will have to take their chances with hungry predators and harsh conditions. - this is after all a UK summer!

The first tender plants to leave the coldframe were our runner beans - Desiree, Lady Di and St. George,  and climbing French beans - Cobra ( as recommended by Mark over at Mark's Veg Plot 

These have been planted up four bamboo teepees at each corner of a large squarish bed.
Along the sides of the bed in between the teepees are four squash plants.
The space in the middle of the bed is filled with sweetcorn so the bed is a sort of three sisters bed but where the sisters keep their distance from one another! Although I guess the squash sister will try to be more friendly as time goes by.

More squash have been planted in other areas of the plot including, as an experiment, some growing on heaps of a mixture of soil and manure sitting on top of weed control fabric.

Planted against the hazel poles are cucumbers which will be tied in as they grow.

The first lot of French beans have been planted out - like many of our other plantings these have been planted through weed control fabric.

Another row of peas have been sown alongside them. The first ones -transplanted from pots - are now flowering and the second ones - planted direct  - are just germinating.
The last of our recently fledged tender plants were three varieties of courgettes - one green, Zucchini, one yellow, Jemmer and one round, Tondo Chiaro di Nizza. These have also been planted through weed control fabric which has been covered with well rotted manure. The manure has been arranged to form circular mounds around each plant in the hope that this will afford a little protection from the wind. We're also hoping that the manure will give off a little heat which will in turn slightly warm up the soil beneath the fabric. The idea is the come next season when we move the fabric, the manure can be incorporated into the soil.

Yes I know we will have far too many courgettes but we may try using the flowers this year and, like all birds know, to make sure of the survival of a few we often have to produce a large number of offspring.

Now our tender plants have fledged they will be left to face the perils of the great outdoors alone. Good Luck little ones!

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

Wednesday, June 19

Only a few but what a few!

Two post in one day - sorry but I couldn't add this to my Wordless Wednesday post and it was something well worth sharing!

Yesterday was host to one of the eagerly anticipated events of the year. Our first picking and eating of freshly ripe strawberries.
Not many I know but plenty more to come.
Just hoping we don't get a heavy downpour to spoil things!

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