Monday, April 30

Scraping together a harvest

We managed a bit more work on the allotment last week most of which was covered in my last post.

A further visit to the allotment on Sunday saw the early brassicas planted. We planted calabrese - Aquiles, cabbage - Regency and cauliflower- Helsinki. All were bought as plug plants. We have bought early brassicas this way for a few years now as conditions never seem conducive to raising our own early plants and this way has usually served us well.
We planted up another bed of potatoes. To be honest these were planted in a bed that hasn't been used for a while. It used to be a herb bed in a former life and the herbs became old and woody so were removed. The ground was very rough and we never really got round to doing much with it. This year we decided to grow some 'extra' potatoes there. We bought a bag of Charlotte with the idea that cultivating something may help refine the soil and potatoes seemed a good bet.
We managed a small harvest. As you would expect rhubarb dominated.
One plant of purple sprouting broccoli survived winter and is providing modest - very modest - pickings,

The chives were added to mashed potatoes. We are still using potatoes in store but are quickly running out.
We also found a cauliflower. It wasn't the best of specimens but provided us with a helping each.
As the row of chive plants are starting to produce flowers, I cut a bigger bundle of chives later in the week. I clipped and froze them for use later. I've become quite a fan of freezing herbs and find it very useful to have a small stock in the freezer for those occasions when no fresh leaves are available.

Another favourite is coriander (cilantro). We have a pot of this in the greenhouse which was showing the early signs of going to seed so I gave it a 'haircut' and have frozen that too.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 
Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Saturday, April 28

Take a cue from nature

One of the questions asked in our Radio Leeds interview was how did we think this year's weather had affected our gardening. Our estimate is that we are probably two or three weeks behind where we would like to be.

We started to catch up during the few good weather days about a week ago. The onions and shallots took off and are now growing well. We actually planted the sets earlier this year on the 29 March. Last year the sets went in on 17 April so consequently growth is ahead of last year.
On 24 April we planted out our first sowing of Witkiem Manita broad beans which unfortunately were battered by the winds that arrived the day after planting. Last year this task was completed on 8 April.
We planted our first seed potatoes in sacks on 20 March, last year this was done on 2 March. They are through and being earthed up as they grow.
The early and trial potatoes were planted on the plot on 8 April and the first of our maincrop potatoes on 21 April. We still have another lot to plant but the ground is too wet to prepare for them.

Last year we planted the first potatoes in bags on 2 March and the earlies and trial varieties on 2 April. The first lot of maincrop went in on 9 April with the rest all being planed before the end of April - the soggy ground this year is holding us up.

Our first lot of peas were planted this week on 26 April. Last year this job was completed on 9 April.
The rain has been our real enemy this year with our clay soil being more like mud. We need some drying days in order to prepare more beds for sowing carrots and parsnips and planting the rest of the potatoes. Fortunately we have a bed ready prepared for the early brassicas that we intend to plant out this weekend.
Let's just hope that the rain stops soon and gives is a chance.

So what is nature making of this weather? I've just sampled some photos of  fruit trees on the allotment and shrubs growing in our garden to compare this year with last.

The plum and greengage blossom may be late but it is making up for its tardiness by producing far more flowers than I can remember before. I just hope that the weather isn't keeping our insect friends away.

Let's hope that May is kinder to us and gives the plants and us a chance to catch up.

Friday, April 27

Silly o'clock

I had a phone call yesterday from Radio Leeds. On the breakfast show they were featuring how the weather was affecting food growing this year. They wanted to interview different types of fruit and vegetable growers so would we be prepared to do a piece on the effects on allotment growing.

The programme planner said that they would need us to be at the plot for a 8:00 a.m. slot which didn't sound too bad. Then he checked and came back with, 'Oh it's two slots - one at 7:00 a.m and another at 8:00 a.m. Could we also arrive at the site a little earlier to give the reporter time to set up?'  After a sharp intake of breath and a quick consult with Martyn I agreed. 

Alarm clock was set at 5:30 a.m. - as I stated in the title  - silly o'clock! Due to the hour the plan was to take our breakfast with us.
The radio van and reporter - Oli Woodcock - arrived on cue and our first short piece was delivered. This was done via a 4G phone link as there wasn't time to set up the satellite link.

Before the next slot the satellite link was set up.
If you have read about a previous live recording for Radio Leeds you may remember that a tall aerial was used.  Since then the aerial, which miraculously emerged from the roof of the van, has been replaced by a dish.

The equipment in the back of the van was temperamental but eventually played ball.
The two fire extinguishers were a bit worrying!

Oli took one or two photos for the Radio Leeds Twitter feed and a panorama of part of the plot then joined us in the shed for a coffee whilst he sent his tweets off.

The rain kept coming and going and of course right on cue for the 8:00 a.m. slot it decided to rain. All told I don't think we disgraced ourselves too much. If you want to decide for yourself the two pieces featured on the show are included in the video clip below.

Wednesday, April 25

What a difference a bit of sun makes

Monday, April 23

A short glimpse of summer.

This week's glimpse of summer really kicked things off! We were away for a couple of days at the end of the week and so, when we visited the plot on Saturday, the transformation was amazing. The blossom had literally burst onto the scene as my new header shows. One bee looked overwhelmed and couldn't decide where to go first. More photos will follow on Wednesday.

The lovely warm weather means that the bed allocated for potato planting was dry enough to till and we managed to plant five rows of our main potatoes.
We planted a row each of Cara, Nadine, Rooster, Kestrel and Osprey. We have seed potatoes left of each variety and a bag of Vivaldi still to plant once another bed is ready for them. Meanwhile the potatoes planted in the bags in the garden greenhouse are growing well.
The brassicas and broad beans are also growing well and the leeks are now doing their best to catch up.

On the plot the onions and shallots are shooting. We didn't plant any in modules this year as last year we found no difference in yield between the sets started  early in the greenhouse and those planted straight into the ground.
The row of chives are also growing well. 
In the garden greenhouse the apricot seems to have set lots of fruit but no doubt many fruitlets will be discarded.
The peach and nectarine are not showing any signs of having set fruit yet.

As well as planting we have continued to tidy some beds which meant removing any remaining crops. We still had some leeks left and so I dug all these.
They were basically growing in mud and so I laid them out for the clumps caked around the roots to dry off a little. They were then trimmed ready to be taken home.

I also found a couple of parsnips that had been missed when their bed was cleared.
The leeks and parsnip were frozen for use later.
Of course at this time of year we couldn't have a week when we didn't harvest some of our early rhubarb now could we?
I even found a few spring onions in one of the beds that I tidied.

I nearly forgot I also cut some coriander growing in a pot in the greenhouse to sprinkle on our vegetable biryani. I'll probably cut more and freeze it as it doesn't take long before it runs to seed.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 
Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Sunday, April 22

Day out at Pensthorpe

We had a couple of days break to Norfolk this week and spent one day at Pensthorpe. - These were some of the characters that we met.
Bearded Tit


Mandarin duck


I think this a a ruff trying to impress an uninterested female


Wednesday, April 18


Monday, April 16

Just a bit of rhubarb

We spent some time tidying the garden this week and also had a day out in North Yorkshire. As most other days were wet and miserable, we only managed one afternoon at the allotment. Even then that afternoon was cut short as it started to rain.

Our main aim was a bit more tidying and edging of beds ready for them to be tilled when - if ever - they dry a little. Martyn worked on this whilst I trimmed back the lavender beds and a couple of helianthemums which share the bed with the blueberries.
I ran the shears over the plants trimming off the spent flower stems and straggly bits. I didn't have time to gather up the pieces, which as you can see are left on top of the plants, before the rain started.

With rain threatening my first 'job' though was to have a wander round the plot taking some photos. The warmer weather last week seems to have spurred some plants into action. I was surprised to see that the tulips planted in the pear tree bed were flowering.
Self sown primroses are flowering in the grass paths - they don't seem to mind the fact that the grass is regularly strimmed.
At last the plum trees seem to be preparing to flower. Up until this week the trees were showing little sign of life.
The autumn raspberries are also now producing plenty of shoots.
The early rhubarb is growing quickly. Later varieties can be seen alongside the large clump in the photo on the left.
One other thing that we managed before the rain chased us away was to pull a few sticks of rhubarb which are destined to be used in a sponge pudding,

I hope that this little bit of rhubarb qualifies the post for additions to  link to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres