Thursday, June 28

Walton Open Gardens

If you live in the Wakefield area or nearby, you may be interested in this event.

Wednesday, June 27

Swan and cygnets

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

Monday, June 25

Getting beyond a joke

For a while now the most time consuming task on the allotment has been watering and last week was no different. The problem is that the more we plant and the more the plants grow, the more watering we need to do. On Friday and Saturday last week, I clocked up 7.7 km (about 4.6 miles) carrying two large cans of water. Martyn was watering too so that isn't our full 'watering walking' total. Not only is this very 'achy breaky 'work but it limits the time that we can spend on other jobs.

As, Martyn posted on his blog we even resorted to watering an empty sun baked bed. It sounds eccentric but there was a good reason. I'm not going to explain here so if you are intrigued pop over to his blog to find out more.

I've been asked why we use cans and not a hosepipe. Mainly it's a case of having control over how much water we apply as when using a hosepipe you can think that you are giving more water than you actually are. We have about one tap to every four plots but it can be a problem filling cans when other gardeners are using hoses as the water pressure can drop to a trickle. Also a hose takes a tap out of action so we may have to walk further to the next available tap if someone is using our nearest one, this increases our 'water miles'. The problem increases on an evening when far more people are trying to access the water supply.

I'm afraid that the potatoes have been left to cope with the dry conditions as best they can. To water all our potatoes would be taking things too far. Excessive amounts of water would be needed to penetrate to the roots. The result is that the potatoes are not producing the amount of top growth that we would expect and even the tiniest of plants are now flowering. I doubt that we will have as good a crop from the plot grown potatoes as we harvested on Sunday from one of the potato bags that had been growing in our garden greenhouse.
One priority crop has been to give the peas copious amounts of water. Peas hate hot, dry weather and we love peas so lots of effort has been put in to keeping them growing. The first lot sown are now flowering so I hope the hot weather forecast for next week doesn't spoil things.
Likewise the sweet peas are beginning to produce flowers.
One crop that is loving the sunshine is the apricot tree in our garden greenhouse. It's loaded with fairly small fruit. The diminutive size is down to our reluctance to thin the fruitlets. We just eat two fruits rather than one. The sunshine has certainly resulted in lovely sweet fruit which is also the case for the few strawberries that the struggling plants are producing.
I'm hoping that the sun has the same effect in the swelling peaches and nectarines.

One essential task that had to be fitted in between watering was to net the blueberries before the blackbirds denuded the plants.
Unfortunately we haven't managed to net the redcurrants. The cage around them fell victim to snow and gales and we hadn't managed to rebuild it so we are having to share the redcurrant harvest with the blackbirds. The way things are going I think they will have the lion's share.

As well as redcurrants and strawberries we are also picking a few autumn raspberries. I missed cutting out a few small canes from last year's growth and they have produced fruit. It's due to this habit, that some gardeners only prune out half of the old canes from autumn fruiting raspberries. The plants then produce two harvests. As we have plenty of summer fruiting canes I don't do this but it seems the autumn variety has beaten the summer fruiters and given us a sprinkling of earlier berries.
We have plenty of calabrese - Aquiles - and cabbage - Regency - so our menus will have to be adapted to take this into account. For some reason I chopped off the cabbage in the photo on the top right above. When I asked, Martyn whether he had taken a better photo, strangely he had done just the same thing!

As well as edibles I picked a small posy of cut flowers.
 I could have added this dahlia to the mix but I left her to encourage her friends  to open their petals.
Finally if I could put in a heartfelt request for a good but gentle downpour, preferably in the evening and overnight. If that is asking too much I would willing sacrifice a day to rain as things are getting beyond a joke now! Anyone know of a good rain dance?

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Wednesday, June 20

All creatures small - some not so great

Monday, June 18

What else can the weather throw our way?

We had a couple of days out last week and so much of our allotment time was spent clocking up more watering can miles.

On one visit we decided that the early brassica bed would benefit from a little weeding. Planting through weed control fabric doesn't eliminate weeds completely. Weeds still manage to sneak alongside plants and push through the planting holes. Also annual weed seeds will germinate in the mulch which we use to cover the fabric. It does cut down weed growth very significantly though. This was the first time we have weeded the brassicas since planting on 22 April and it didn't take very long. Weeds growing in the mulch are quickly removed and we also managed to harvest a handful of small potatoes courtesy of the volunteer plants that had sprouted from tubers that were missed last year. Isn't it amazing how we carefully avoid planting potatoes until conditions are favourable and yet volunteers that have withstood all that the winter throws at them survive and grow?
Our leek plantlets were very small and grasslike but had to be planted in one of the only beds that was still plantable. They did't stand up proud for long as you will find out later.
The second lot of peas were given supports.
Despite the first lot of broad beans failing to grow strongly we should soon have some beans to harvest.
One job that will need to be tackled shortly is the netting of the blueberries, The plants have lots of fruit and at the first sign of ripening the blackbirds will move in. They are already patrolling the raspberries which we don't net as usually there is plenty to share. The blueberries however, like redcurrants are quickly stripped bare.
You may remember that I needed some lavenders to plug the gaps in the lavender hedging that I am trying to renovate. I have taken some cuttings but Martyn spotted a good offer from DT Browns for 30 young plants and as he had decided to order some new strawberry plants from the same place, he added a pack to the order.
The plants are a good size with a strong root system so we are very pleased with them. The strawberries - Sweetheart - were advertised as producing fruit in August but when we opened the package, the plants already had some fruit. Initially they have been planted in a couple of planting bags.
So to this year's challenging weather. We started the year with the wettest January since Martyn started keeping records in 2009. It was also very cold. February was very cold and snowy with many days recording freezing temperatures. Snow fell in March and like January it was the wettest Match that Martyn had recorded. April produced double the expected rainfall. May contrarily was very dry and the temperatures shot up to bake the saturated soil.

So far June has produced a mixed bag of weather with last Thursday treating us to the ravages of storm Hector. Gale force winds are always a major problem when they whip up at this time of the year. Last year wind flattened the sweetcorn only the day after it was planted and this year although it spared the sweetcorn the young leeks were flattened. Whether they emulate last year's sweetcorn and survive is anybody's guess.

Covers were whipped off the brassicas but, knowing that the wood pigeons would swoop down and devastate the greens, our plot neighbour, Jan recovered them for us.

We were too busy sorting things out to take photos of the aftermath of the gales but Martyn describes it in the video below
On Saturday I wanted to plant out some half hardy annuals in order to plug some gaps in the perennial border. It was when I was half way through the task that the sky darkened, the thunder rumbled and the often forecast storm that kept avoiding us deciding that our turn had come. Our gardening activities were cut short and we rushed for shelter in the shed. The storm didn't last long but at least it fulfilled the watering duties for us and once it had calmed down we set off home.
Martyn managed to pick a couple of punnets of strawberries before the heavens opened
On Sunday I finished planting cosmos, ageratum and statice.
Before we headed home we also harvested our first head of calabrese.
As for Monday, it has started off with strong winds again.

Just what else is the weather god going to throw our way?

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Wednesday, June 13

Dragon in the greenhouse

Monday, June 11

Plenty of exercise!

Last week I walked 13.8 kilometres, (just over 8.5 miles) when working on the plot and most of that distance was carrying watering cans as we still haven't had any rain. Torrential rain had been threatened in some weather forecasts but it hasn't yet materialised. Not that we actually want torrential rain as it wouldn't actually be good for all the young plants and emerging seedings but some good steady rain would do the allotment a power of good. The potatoes especially could do with a boost. There is only so much watering that we can do and the potatoes have rather been left to get on with growing unaided and they are not really flourishing.

Besides watering we have spent most of our time planting. I described lots of last week's planting activity in an earlier post but since them we have planted more.

A second lot of brassicas have been planted. This time the varieties were Brussels sprouts - Crispus, cabbage - Kilaton and the remaining cauliflowers - Clapton. Like the rest of the brassicas planted earlier, these are all club root resistant varieties and like the other bed they have been protected in an enviromesh tunnel.
The sweetcorn - Earlibird has been planted out in a block. Last year the planting of the sweetcorn triggered gale force winds which flattened the young plants. The wind god obviously had the timing wrong as the plants were not ready to be wind pollinated. We thought that was an early end to our potential sweetcorn crop but incredibly the flattened plants rallied and sprung up to grown on. The will to grow was stronger than we anticipated and we ended up with a good crop
The tomato plants left over from the greenhouse plantings have all been planted. This year we have reduced the varieties and confined ourselves to three tall growing varieties -Shirley, Sungold and Tigerella. Still living in the greenhouse is a small bush variety -Red Robin.

We have more to plant out but with the remaining beds being as hard as concrete we need that day of steady rain to give us a chance at creating more planting spaces.
Strawberries have been the main crop of the week. We even managed a punnet of alpine strawberries which if memory serves me is quite early for alpines. 

Although there will be no glut of strawberries to freeze this year the plants that have survived are keeping up a steady supply. I'm not watering them at the moment and the flavour has improved.

Although the rhubarb is flagging in the dry heat we are still managing to pick some stems. It is not the sort of conditions rhubarb enjoys with those huge leaves losing any moisture that the plants can access.
The only other food harvesting is salad based. I think the lettuce below is All Year Round and the white radishes are a variety called White Icicle.
Other than that we have a supply of fresh herbs which are picked as needed.  Worthy of particular mention are the two pots of sage - one purple and one green - in our cold frame area. They are producing lots of large, fresh leaves.
Finally we picked a few sweet Williams that survived the winter to flower again this year. The new plants that I planted last year were eaten by slugs!
In the vase are also the last of the sprigs of sweet rocket so I guess you could say it was a vase of sweeties!

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Saturday, June 9

Mainly Flowers

For those of you who enjoy watching videos, I'd like to take you for a wander around our plot. 

On our plot we like to grow a mixture of food crops and ornamentals with some plants touching on both categories. The video mainly focuses on flowers but when wandering around it is impossible to ignore the foodie stuff.

Some flowers are bought specially for planting on the plot whereas others are refugees from our garden. The latter may have outgrown their allocated spot or simply be the results of over enthusiasm when taking cuttings.
Some of the plants that we have introduced self seed and others just appear. As long as the self seeders are not causing a problem they are allowed to stay and some even encouraged to keep repeating the process.

As you will see from the video, the flowers provide sustenance for bees and other beneficial insects so it is a win, win situation. We can enjoy the sight and perfumes of the flowers and the insects are provided with a food supply. Hopefully in turn they will help pollinate our fruit and munch on a few of the unwelcome garden pests.

Before you click on the play button be warned that the video is just over 20 minutes long so if you don't have that time to spare, come back later when you are struggling to find something to watch on TV

If you enjoyed the video and would like to pay more virtual visits to our plot, why not visit our vlog, Two Gardeners - One Video Diary Here we post almost weekly videos.

Friday, June 8

Plot activity - an update

We have been really busy on the plot as there were lots of plants waiting to leave home and seek relative independence on the plot. This, however, hasn't been as straightforward this year. It's not that we don't have the space; almost a fifth of out plot has empty beds. The problem is that the hot dry conditions on top of soggy conditions have almost acted as a kiln and baked our clay soil. Consequently lots of beds are just not workable.

Even where beds were in not too bad a condition, in order to till the soil before planting, we had to water the ground the previous afternoon. The next day the bed had to be hand dug before tilling was possible. All this has meant that planting up the plot has been a slow process.

Half of the bed shown above is now home to half of our squash plants with the other half being planted in front on one of our sweet peas structures.

We are growing Crown Prince this year and another variety called Butterbush.

We also planted the green courgettes. The variety is Zucchini. Disappointingly, some of the yellow - Atena Polka courgettes, planted earlier, have attracted the attentions of slugs and/or snails. The best plants are in facts 'spares' that were planted between the two plantings of broad beans.
You may be able to spot those courgettes at the top left of the photo below - the green colour is more a yellowish green than the bluish green of the broad beans.

The second batch of broad beans were planted this week. This variety is Masterpiece Green Longpod. They are off to a stronger start than the earlier planted Witkiem Manita, although the later are now producing young beans.

All the climbing beans are now planted. This year we have cut down on varieties and have planted runner beans - Firestorn and Celebration and climbing French beans - Cobra and Cosse Violette. So far, and I hope that I am not tempting fate, these seem to have taken to their new home. There has been no initial nervousness and they seem just raring to grow.

We planted up one of our brassica beds. This bed is now the living quarters to cauliflower - Clapton, cabbage Kalibro, red cabbage - Red Lodero and calabrese - Monclano. All these varieties are club root resistant. We have slightly adapted our growing technique for some plants this year. Instead of growing through holes in the weed control fabric, we prepared wide trenches. Compost and fertiliser was added to the trench before planting and then the fabric placed back around the plants.

On our site brassicas need protecting as soon as they hit the soil as the ever alert pigeon population will take full advantage of any opportunity to dine on fresh green leaves. As it is they have started to feast on immature plums. Unfortunately the trees are too big to net so we can only hope at least the pigeons leave some fruit for us. This year we are using the half hoop system. As the brassicas are also attacked by cabbage white caterpillars and whitefly, the brassicas are protected by draping enviromesh over the hoops.

The same system has been used for the strawberries but as we only need to keep the birds off the fruit, we use soft netting to protect them.

Peas are growing well. The first two rows of Onward are now heading up the pea sticks.

The later sown two rows of Onward are now almost ready for staking and the Oregon Sugarsnap and Nairobi are growing well.

I sowed a the third row of Onward on 28 May and this sowing has germinated well. Alongside this I sowed a row of seeds that included, spinach, beetroot.  leaf beet, swede, chard and wild rocket, These also germinated well, I just hope that the slugs either don't have a taste for them or don't find them. They certainly found and enjoyed my annual flower seedlings which I have had to resow. I'm just hoping that the second sowing survives.

The greenhouse tomatoes have been planted in both our garden and plot greenhouses. They have settled in well and the 'spares' are just waiting to be planted on the plot.
The carrots and parsnips are starting to speed up their growth but it was with some trepidation that I thinned out the parsnips. Usually sporadic germination means that thinning isn't necessary. My worry was that the seedlings left after thinning would give up the ghost but this hasn't happened yet.

A less delicate thinning job that was undertaken was to reduce the number of new canes being sent up by the tayberry. I chose three or four strong canes from each clump and cut out the rest. The new canes will be tied in later when this year's fruiting canes have been removed. 
That's about it, I think that you are now fully up to date - that is until tomorrow. It's just that time of year!

By the way Blogger has stopped sending me email notifications of comments made on my posts or follow up comments from other blogs so if I miss one of your comments I apologise and officially blame Blogger. Is this affecting anyone else? I wonder whether it's something to do with the new data protection laws that seem OTT to me.
Copyright: Original post from 
Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett