Wednesday, March 27

Springing into flower

Monday, March 25

Starting to turn things around

We managed to get quite a bit of work done at the allotment last week and we certainly feel that things are turning a corner. The emphasis is gradually becoming more on getting ready to plant.

There was still some bed preparation which involved deciding where each of this year's crops would be planted, then moving and positioning the relevant pieces of weed control fabric onto the appropriate beds.
Once in place the fabric was mulched with well rotted wood chippings which next year will be dug into the soil.

Some of the flower beds were weeded and are now ready for additional planting. We have already earmarked some plants at present in the garden for a move onto the allotment.
Last year we tried, unsuccessfully, to grow some nasturtiums in an old wheelbarrow. We think they failed possibly due to being in too shady a position so we have moved the wheelbarrow, as shown in the photo at the top right of the group above. We will try again - the gardeners' mantra.

We have also actually started planting. The first lot of onion sets have been planted. As usual they have been planted in channels cut into weed control fabric.
Before planting the channels were filled with multi purpose compost to give the sets a bit of TLC to give them a start. The planted bed was then covered with twigs to provide a bit of protection. Animal tracks - maybe fox tracks - often pepper newly dug beds and birds often take the opportunity to dust bathe in newly tilled soil.

We have planted five varieties of onions this year, Centurion, Hercules, Red Karmen, Rumba and Sturon. Another bed will be planted with onions shortly. We used to first start sets off in modules in the greenhouse, but one year we compared growing this way with planting the sets a little later, directly in the ground. The ones planted directly, soon caught up with those first planted in modules. The module grown sets suffered a check to their growth when planted out, whereas once the the sets planted directly started going they had no such check to growth. 
Our dahlias had been stored over winter in paper potato sacks in the garage. They seem to have survived and last week were potted up until we are ready to plant them on the allotment.

We use lots of celery, but it is one of the vegetables that we just don't seem to be able to grow. Recently, Martyn watched an interesting idea on YouTube which showed how you could regrow celery from the base of shop bought celery. We decided to have a go ourselves.
We cut the root plate off a bunch of celery and placed it in a tub containing water. Once stems started to grow the whole thing was planted. We don't expect 'normal' sized stems but it will be interesting to see what we get.

One crop of stems that we have no trouble growing is rhubarb. Our earliest variety is now producing a crop of good sized stems.
23 March
Much to our delight our PSB is now producing lots of shoots. No PSB envy for us this year.
19 March
As we now need to clear beds that still have some overwinter crops growing, we dug the last of the beetroot and also a large batch of leeks. The leeks below will be used to make Wensleydale patties. These are a Yorkshire version of Glamorgan sausages whereby the Glamorgan cheese is replaced with Wensleydale and the mixture shaped like small burgers rather than sausages.
24 March
Sadly, although we still have carrots and parsnips left in the ground, these are now beginning to regrow so are unlikely to be fit for the pot. This is a major departure from last year when we had no carrots and quickly used up our few parsnips. You never get the same outcome, year on year, when growing your own vegetables which makes planning how much to grow a tricky balancing act. If we were to cut down on how much we grow next year, we would probably be faced with a lean crop. I guess it all adds to the challenge and makes us really appreciate when things go well.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

By the way, I know I get lots of visitors who never comment and I'd love to know who you are. Why not say hello? You don't have to have your own blog in order to join in conversations. It may seem that everyone who comments knows one another but bloggers always welcome new commenters, after all that is how we all started.

Wensleydale patties' recipe I used this recipe and just substituted the Glamorgan cheese for Wensleydale. I shaped the mixture into patties rather than sausages.. The quantity in the recipe makes 6 patties. I cook them for 20-30 minutes in the oven 200C/400F gas 6 until they are browned and hot. They freeze well. I flash freeze on a tray before bagging them as shown below/

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.

Update: For thise who have asked the interviews can be listened to on BBC iplayer - The Richard Stead show The first slot is around 1:07 and the second is around 2:07 with the final clip around 2:53. You do have to register with BBC iplayer to listen.

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.