Monday, February 24

After the storms

We paid just one visit to the allotment with some trepidation as it was our first visit in the wake of storms Ciara and Dennis. To be honest the winds were nothing like as announced on the weather reports and probably no worse than we frequently experience, however our site is very exposed and there is always the possibility that any strong winds racing across the plot could wreak havoc. It is not unknown for sheds to be upended which is why ours is anchored firmly to a set fence posts.

Fortunately all our structures were in tact, although we are not completely out of the woods as Saturdays winds, although not bestowed with the distinction of being named, were stronger than the previous storm winds.
We didn't escape completely free as the winds had whipped the enviromesh protection from our brassica beds.
Never missing the chance of a choice meal, the wood pigeons moved in and decimated one bed of purple sprouting broccoli. The top leaves seemed to be the meal of choice with one bed suffering most damage.
The winds had also loosened some of the weed control fabric which will need some attention. One of our plot neighbours told us that the bottom part of the site had been flooded but fortunately that hadn't extended to our plot. Despite escaping any flooding the soil is still saturated and far too wet to work on.
 Despite the abysmal conditions the early rhubarb is growing well.
The pieces that, Martyn planted in a new bed are also now beginning to poke through. Although we are not sure of the varieties, these are later than Timperley Early which are pictured at the top of the photos above.
We managed to gather a small harvest before heading home. From the bed that had escaped the pigeons, there was sufficient  purple sprouting broccoli florets for a meal.

We also picked two very small cauliflowers, to have left them any longer would have meant that they would have been ruined by the persistent rain.

The cabbage that we cut was much bigger than many this year. It was solid and not too badly damaged. Most of our cabbage is eaten raw in coleslaw and so it will hopefully keep us going for a while.
Finally we uprooted one of the Brussels sprouts plants which will hopefully keep fresh for a while  sitting in a bucket of water.
Back at home, in the garden greenhouse the Flavorcot apricot tree is loaded with blossom. Paintbrush in hand, I have been busily playing the part of a bee. I hope that this will mean we will have some lovely apricots later in the year.
In the comfort of the house, the hippeastrum aka amarylis has produced a third flower stem which is a first for me. I usually consider myself lucky if my bulb produces two stems.

The plant also appears to have produced a couple of seed pods which I hope will ripen so that I can have a go at growing the seeds. 

Wednesday, February 19

Apricot blossom

Thursday, February 13

February Flowers

Monday, February 10

Preparing for the new season?

We haven't really been doing much gardening recently but have been to the allotment a couple of times over the last fortnight, although each time we haven't stayed very long. Visits have mainly been to harvest  although, Martyn has done a bit more clearing and digging over the old honeyberry bed.
It's been roughly dug and there is still plenty more to do before the bed will be ready for replanting.

So what did we manage to harvest?
On our first visit we harvested a couple of cabbages, there was  plenty to use from the larger of the two but, to be honest, hardly anything from the smaller cabbage. The constant rain has ruined quite a lot of crops and the cabbages have suffered quite a lot of damage some of which only becomes apparent as leaves are stripped off.

We were lucky with the two small cauliflowers as any that grow beyond this size are again ruined by the rain. We also managed to pick a few sprouts

Fortunately the parsnips seem to be surviving being planted in mud.

On our second harvesting visit, the wind was whipping round the plot so one task was to recover the brassicas as the enviromesh had been partially blown off leaving some plants uncovered. The wood pigeons had taken advantage of this and nibbled the broccoli leaves but fortunately had left the florets untouched so we had quite a lot of PSB ready to pick.
This was photographed in the shed to avoid it blowing away. As we had quite a lot, I decided to make broccoli soup. The recipe stated that just the florets were to be used but after picking off any damage leaves I used the leaves and stems too, why waste them?

We also picked a small cauliflower. There were some larger ones but the wet conditions had spoiled them and the curds were brown.
We picked quite a few leeks as we decided to freeze a batch before they spoiled. This year, for some reason, quite a few have developed a hard core.
This post seems to have developed into a tale of woe as our red cabbages are very small too so we picked three.
To rescue things the parsnips were still going strong.

I'm really glad that this year isn't our first year for growing vegetables as I think I would be rather disheartened.

Our other garden related activity last week, was to visit out local garden centre's potato day. As usual we bought six varieties to try out. These were Gemson, Maris Piper, Mayan Rose, Pentland Javelin, Sarpo Una, and Ulster Prince. We bought four tubers of each variety. Some are quite well known varieties but are ones we haven't grown before or maybe have in the past but can't remember how they fared. We've bought Maris Piper from the supermarket but that doesn't mean that it will grow well in our soil.
Our main selections were  Apache, Casablanca, Elfe, International Kidney, Nadine, Osprey and Rudolph. Apache, Elfe and Rudolph were promoted from last year's trial varieties. Casablanca is a firm favourite early variety which will be sown in tubs in the greenhouse as well as in open ground.
Whilst we were at the garden centre we also bought onion and shallot sets.

We have bought Red Karmen, Centurion, Hercules, Sturon and Pink Panther onions. Pink Panther is new to us but the rest we have grown before. They are all globe shaped as I prefer these to the flattened varieties. We were going to buy a small pack of Red Karmen, as the red onions never do as well for us as the brown ones, however when it came to it, the small pre-packed sets cost exactly the same as the larger quantity in the net bags.

The shallots we selected were Red Sun, Golden Gourmet, Longor and Meloine.
Some of the potatoes are already chitting and all have been set out in the summer house and will have fleece thrown over them if it promises to be frosty.

Let's hope that the weather and soil condition improves before we need to start planting! To finish on a positive note, our early rhubarb doesn't seem to be letting the prevailing conditions deter it from making a start.

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

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. 

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

Wednesday, February 5

January in pictures

Saturday, February 1

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

We took part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch on Monday. We have taken part in the count since it started and have kept results from 2012 so we have some idea of how the bird population is faring in our garden.

We watched the birds for an hour between 9:00 and 10:00 on Monday morning just after the bird tables and feeders had been replenished. As usual we only counted birds that could be visible from  two windows of the house that overlook the feeding area. This means that there were likely to be more birds higher up the garden or to other sides of the house but there is a limit to how much of an area two pairs of eyes can cover.
You have to count the greatest number of birds seen at any one point so the count doesn't take into account that different individuals may be visiting. Some species such as the members of the tit family are likely to be several individuals only appearing one or two at a time.

Some birds arrive in flocks scattered about the garden and constantly on the move making counting difficult. This especially applies to house sparrows and goldfinches. It would be maybe more accurate to have recorded six blackbirds as we counted five males together and then spotted a lone female but the rules don't allow for that.

Another difficulty is that in the light conditions that prevailed some birds in the trees were just silhouettes and so couldn't be easily identified.

For those of you unfamiliar with British birds, I have put together a collage to help identify the birds that we counted.
So how did our results compare to previous years?
Other than a wren none of our less frequent visitors put in appearance although I think wrens probably visit more often than we think and are not easily spotted.

Most of the usual visitors were counted although some such as the goldfinch usually turn up in greater numbers. Goldfinches are also usually much earlier to the feeders.
Click on yhe chary for a larger version
The house sparrow remains out most numerous visitor which is hardly surprising as it travels in flocks. Our count had to be based on an estimate as not only were the birds constantly on the move but they were present in different parts of the garden at the same time. Our total is at most an underestimation of the actual number present.

Overall the total number of birds counted over the years had been fairly stable with the lowest number of birds counted reflecting the poor weather conditions.
Our results were submitted on the RSPB website where a half donut chart was produced.
The only problem is that it only displays the top ten species despite others being equal in number to some displayed so I decided to construct my own chart.
There is some discrepancy in that we counted the same number of robins as blue tits and great tits, however the chart shows different percentages which was presumably necessary to give the total as 100%

The RSPB site also displays the national results to date.
This shows that our range of species is similar to the national picture although, we didn't count any long tailed tits, we do have them visit our garden.

As they did last year, house sparrows top both counts but blackbirds, goldfinches and wood pigeons are above starlings and blue tits on our list.