Wednesday, January 30

Braving the elements

Monday, January 28

Stocking up and another tick

We somehow managed a couple of afternoons on the allotment last week. What with appointments and the weather that was rather amazing.

We managed to get another two winter jobs ticked off. I managed to tie in the kiwi and finish tidying the gooseberry that had previous been smothered under a thicket of kiwi leaves.
Martyn managed to reduce the size of a laurel hedge. It's needed doing for a while but we have wanted to avoid when birds are starting to nest and usually they beat us to it. The blackbirds and robin weren't impressed but there is still lots of nesting opportunities in the much reduced hedge. The problem is that we now have a huge pile of tough laurel branches, which won't compost very well.

I did a bit of weeding before the small weeds, that had taken a foothold in our wood chipping mulch, sent roots down through the weed control fabric. 

Despite being in the middle of winter goosegrass/cleavers, or whatever you want to call it, was already trying to colonise one of our rhubarb patches  so I cleared that out too. It is certainly one weed that is persistent.

I also cleared and dug a weedy patch at the end of our brassica bed. To say it is the end of January, it dug surprisingly well. 
The same could definitely not be said for another area of the plot. For a couple of years now we have wanted to sort out a particularly overgrown patch. 
A year or two ago, Martyn started on it but had to abandon work when firstly the weather called a halt and then other more important tasks took precedence. Last week he started to tackle the job again and has made a start.
As you can see it is heavy going, we just hope this year the weather doesn't stop us getting the job done.

Whilst we were at the plot we harvested a few vegetables to replenish our stocks at home.
We tend to go through carrots quite quickly so we always come away with more carrots. This time the variety was Flakee. We also cut another Kilaton cabbage. That will mainly be used for coleslaw. These are really solid little cabbages. I peel off leaves as I need them rather than cutting into the cabbage and this way they last for ages in the fridge.

We also harvested what I think is our first ever properly round swede.
It's our one and only round specimen this year too, all the others have cylindrical roots. We've tried different varieties, this one is Tweed which is said to be a vigorous, club root resistant variety so should have grown well. I'm not sure where we are going wrong. Anyone any tips?

At least we can grow round beetroots, the variety of these is Wodan.
We've been busy away from the allotment too. A local garden centre held it's potato day at the weekend, so we went along to stock up on seed potatoes. We can buy the normal sized bags of seed potatoes at any time, but each year we like to buy small numbers of a few varieties of potato to trial.
We bought full bags of, Casablanca, Cara, Kestrel, Nadine, Osprey, Winston, Sarpo Mira and Vivaldi. In the brown paper bags are 4 tubers each of Apache, Jazzy, Rudolph, Premiere, British Queen and Elfe. We had decided to grow the same potatoes as last year, as we felt that last years seed potatoes hardly had a chance to perform to the best of their abilities, however not all those varieties were on offer. Maybe the growers had some crop failures as we did.

As if these weren't enough potatoes, we had already bought some Athlete tubers from another garden centre. These were recommended by one of the YouTube channels that we subscribe to.
We bought a couple of varietes of onions sets - Centurion and Hercules - and a bulb of Solent White garlic from the same place. I'm not sure whether the garlic will need planting now or will last until later in the year. It was bought on a whim as I hadn't been able to find a soft neck variety in our local garden centres earlier. So what do you think, plant now maybe in a tub, or hold off until later?

On top of all that our main seed order arrived.

We've just a few odds and ends to add, Martyn has posted our full list if seeds  to date here . We are going to be very busy once March is upon us.

This week I am linking to Harvest Monday which this month is being hosted on 

Michelles's blog From Seed to Table 

Wednesday, January 23

Are you ready for the Garden Birdwatch weekend

Monday, January 21

More winter jobs ticked off

One important winter task, which was carried out last week, was to give our fruit trees a winter wash. One summer, a year or two after we first planted our plum trees, all the leaves suddenly turned dry and brown and shriveled. We thought that the trees were dying but at the end of summer the tree grew new healthy, green leaves. Although the tree recovered the fruit was deformed and useless. The year after the same thing happened and so some research was called for. We found out that an aphid attack was causing the problem. A specific aphid with the impossibly long name of Brachycaudus Helichrysi or more simply plum leaf curling aphid was the culprit. 
Advice was to spray the trees each winter with a winter wash. This at one time would have been a tar wash but nowadays is based on vegetable oils. Trees should be sprayed twice during the dormant season, before any buds break, but we generally only manage one spray and that seems to do the trick. 
We also spray the other fruit trees as the wash controls other over wintering pests too.
The second job was to add new posts to the 'fence' that supports the kiwi. Before I cut the kiwi back it produced a thicket that supported the fence rather than the fence supporting it.
Before on the left and after on the right
Now that the fence is secured, I need to tie in the stems of kiwi that have been retained. Hiding under the kiwi were two gooseberries that had become feral and I have made a start at trying to tame them.
Bordering the kiwi are lots of native primrose plants so I have started tidying around them to give them less competition.

We have still more tasks planned for over winter but the weather will decide whether or not we manage to complete them.

We harvested a few vegetables to replenish our stocks at home.
At present our harvests have fallen into a pattern, leeks, carrots, parsnips and the occasional cabbage. Last week the cabbage was a Savoy.

During our dry summer, when I was watering our parsnips I did worry that this would cause them to be shallow rooted. I needn't have worried as they have produced some of the deepest roots that we have ever had. In fact harvesting the parsnips has come with a hidden cost. Whilst digging this week's parsnips, Martyn broke his forty plus year old spade. It's seen some battles in the past but this was one battle that it just couldn't win. Goodbye old friend, you have served us well.

This week I am linking to Harvest Monday which this month is being hosted on 

Michelles's blog From Seed to Table 

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

Wednesday, January 16


Monday, January 14

Welcome weeds?

It's amazing just how many plants growing in our garden and on the plot have just arrived without any action on my part.

According to the adage that 'a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place', I guess many of these plants could be classed as weeds.

Verbena bonariensis is an exceptionally prolific self seeder in both our garden and on the plot.

The clump below is growing up against our front window where there is no soil at all. It's growing in gaps between the paving bricks but what is more surprising is that the bricks are bedded onto concrete.
Seedlings spring up in gaps in the bricks on the drive too and most are truly weeds and have to be removed. On the plot verbena also self seeds at will.

Several years ago we planted some antirrhinums which if I remember rightly didn't really do very well, however each year new plants pop up in the front garden and on the plot. Again they will grow between gaps in the paving stones.
 We never know what colours will emerge.

When we first planted up the bed of hellebores the plants were well spaced but again they are a plant that seems to seed freely.
This area is now thickly carpeted with plants.

Another prolific self seeder is the aquilegia. Somehow a colony of white aquilegias have established themselves under our trachycarpus. Surprising on two counts. Firstly we have never grown a white variety and two, we had never grown aquilegias anywhere near this area before this lot sprung up. 
Aquilegias have also popped up on the plot in the pear tree bed. I think seeds may have been transferred from the garden with old compost. Various other shapes and colours are now growing in other areas of the garden.

It isn't only herbaceous plants that pop up unannounced. The daphne above appeared over nine years ago. I suspected the the seedling was different when I first saw it but it wasn't until 2009 when it first flowered that it was identified as a daphne. No doubt a bird had been sitting on the arch, above where it is now growing, had deposited a seed. It was lucky that I didn't whip it out when weeding as I recently noticed that plants only 25cm high are selling for £14 or more.

We have a row of buddleias on the plot and it will come as no surprise to anyone that has noticed buddleias springing up in the most inhospitable of places that they self seed. Last year we spotted at least five plants that had managed to establish themselves in areas that were uncultivated last year. 

The shrubs below were lifted and some will end up in my sister's garden and the others hopefully will find a home elsewhere.
Growing alongside the buddleia in the photo above right was a lovely borage plant. The only time that we have grown borage was on a part of the plot nowhere near where this plant appeared.
On the plot, the bed where our pear trees are planted houses a multitude of self sown plants. The dominant species is candytuft, but also popping up are calendula, eschscholtzia, hardy cyclamen, foxgloves, aquilegias, and probably quite a few other plants that I have forgotten about until they reappear next year.
Cyclamen hederifolium appears all over the garden, often in tiny crevices. We originally had one pink and one white plant. Now we have a countless number in white and various shades of pink. The seeds are supposedly spread by ants.  If you like long unpronounceable words, this ant activity is called myrmecochory. All I can say is that the ants have been very busy. I think we may have helped things along a little as I am sure ants can't be responsible for transporting seeds from the garden to the plot.
Although self sown cyclamen verge on the point of weed status they don't usually cause a problem. There are, however, some self sown plants that really can become quite a nuisance and choke other more desirable plants. 

In the garden, chief amongst these is the innocent looking violet. In the dim and distant past we planted one Bowles Black violet. This plant has produced generations of offspring. As in the case of the cyclamen, ants are involved in the spreading of violet seeds. Violet seedlings cause problems by growing in amongst other plants including in tubs and prove very difficult to evict.

Another plant that I would place in the weed category is limnanthes or the poached egg plant. When we first sowed seeds of this annual only six plants resulted. These went on to produce carpets of plants in the rose border on the plot. As the bed became overgrown the poached egg plants disappeared. Then after the border was renovated this year the seeds have once more sprung into action. They will now need controlling before they take over again.

Another unlikely nuisance is cerinthe. Whole swathes of self sown plants pop up and last year they killed some sweet rocket plants that were sown the previous year. The sweet rocket were growing well until a mass of cerinthe sprung up in the middle of the row.
Foxgloves pop up in the garden and on the plot and again are left when they decide to grow in convenient places. The flowers are all sorts of colours. The white one at the bottom right of the collage above appeared in the red and yellow border but I couldn't bring myself to evict it.
The same strategy is used for the annual poppies that spring up all over the plot and in the front garden. As with the foxgloves, we sowed a packet of the double pink variety many years ago and since then have never been without. Some single poppies in a variety of colours and the small yellow  poppies which I think are Welsh poppies have arrived from elsewhere.
I have often tried growing both native and cultivated primroses from bought seed with very limited success. I once managed to germinate six native primrose seedlings. These fortunately included both thrum and pin headed varieties and went on to produce seeds. I collected some and sowed immediately and achieved a good success rate but since then they have managed to procreate themselves. Any growing in the grass where they may meet an unfortunate end are transplanted to a safer location.

A couple of years ago I bought four cultivated primroses for a tub in the garden and they too self seeded generously and produced mature flowering plants.  You should be able to spot the baby plants in the photo on the top right of the collage. Strangely the new plants are mainly blue flowered if anything I would have expected them to revert to yellow.

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Then their are the little violas that sometimes pop up in the most unexpected places
This one appeared on the plot at the foot of a newly planted black raspberry.

To sum up, all weeds are not equal, some are more welcome than others.

Wednesday, January 9

First hellebores