February 2022

 

28th February  - Spring is well and truly on the way, with flowers appearing, seeds being sown and birds in full song. It is still pretty cold though, so we need to be  be cautious about what is sown in the open ground, especially in more Northern areas

This week there is a short piece about the site... Harvest Monday does follow! 

I am reviewing now the plants in the garden at home, to find any spots where I can squeeze in more plants for the Summer and Autumn, and looking at cutting the grass again pretty soon. I like the idea of fruit trees trained on the back fence....

 

Progress with our Site's Bid for independence:

As most of you know,  we have now formed an official "Association", in order to work in partnership with our local Council in managing the site. The deal basically is that we  manage the waiting list and support the control of waste management from here forward, while the Council clear all those plots that have been derelict and unused for years, and remove long standing rubbish

This is proving very positive, with currently 53 new tenants, and no rubbish piles. We are organising a one-off Rubbish Amnesty" soon, for tenants to clear out their shed and plots, giving no excuse then for old carpet or plastic waste appearing along the verges.

Green waste is still being collected by the Council (Can't change everything at once) but is orgnaise in dedicated areas. A big drive on composting is underway at the same time, especially with all the new tenants

The difference in the overall feel of our site is wonderful to see, with people far more aware of the overal site, not just their immediate neighbours, and a buoyant "can do"  atmosphere

This weekend we had a Seed Swap event, on what turned out to be a beautifu sunny day. There were were tens of dozens of packets of seed thst found new homes, as well as a whole table of seed potatoes and packets of Onion sets

The incentive of home made cake, scones and buns helped of course (Thank you Jane!) and gave people the excuse to sit around and chat

Perhaps a plant swap later?

So le's move on now to the usual .....

Harvest Monday:
At this time in the year there are few "new" harvests, but I am glad to have anything fresh right now. One success has been Parsnips. The idea of growing them slightly closer together to get smaller roots for roasting whole has worked fairly well, although I cooud perhaps thin them slightly more next time. The medium sized ones are just lovely though

We dug up everything in one section this week, to make space for the Onion sets, changing the alignment of the growing spaces again to give enough space for these,with the idea that the resulting smaller space will be fine for Runner Beans

Purple Sprouting Broccoli is coming to an end now. Some heads were badly infected with Cabbage Aphids, thos nasty greyish mealy looking things, and these went to my daughter's chickens, who gobbled them up with glee. There are a couple of clean plants left, that will see me through next week.

Romanescu is downright weird, but tasty, so am glad to have it. I had expected this to be ready before the Winter, but a late planting, coupled with unusual weather have given adifferent outcome, but at least I have a harvest!

Out On The Plots This Week:

I decided not to do anything else in the way of clearing storm damage inside my plot,  but focus on things horticultural while my brain processes potential ideas for re-building. The remaining section of the shelter is wedged securely, so is quite safe. I shall certainly need some help with taking this apart, but as most people are busy dealing with their own repairs, this is doesn't feel urgent

I did however move all the wood from the back section into the plot, stacking it as best I could, and collected up the broken corrugated plastic pieces from the rear verge, as this was starting to blow further along. I managed to get the pieces out of other folks' plot too, which was definitely  a good thing

 

Over on the veg beds, the Onion sets planted las Autumn are starting to put on some growth, as it the Garlic and Elephant Garlic, which , at the moment, is doing well

The Autumn planted Onion sets are fine, with Shakespeare looking very strong. Almost all the Red Winter are actually now showing  agreen spike. These were slow last year but cam egood, so I am hoping for a repeat performance

With help from granddaughter No3 Kitty, the bed for Spring planted Onion sets was cleared of weeds, compost was added, Blood, Fish & Bone scattered and the sets themselves are now safely in the soil.. brown ones for the most part, and a few Snowball from my daughter

The Romanescu plants, dotted around various Brassica beds, are all growing something lime green and vaguely Cauliflower/ Broccoli like, even if not the pretty spiral heads I has anticipated! I shall be harvesting all these next week, as the beds are going to be needed for planting Potatoes pretty soon. I can freeze any surplus, as there is a small amount of space in my big freezer now

The Spring Cabbages have been decimated by pigeons, as their protective net blew off on the storms and I didn't replace it quickly enough. I have a few in the polytunnel though, so it is far from a disaster

Jane, my neighbour, gave me several Ammi  major seedlings, which prompted clearing a section of the smallest bed on #145, which will be given over to flowers this year

It feels good to be planting now for the coming season, after what feels like long drawn out gloomy  months

The tiny Chaemoneles plant planted by Abi just over three years ago, is now flowering, with pretty pink blossoms along the thin branches. Let's hope it continues to flourish and build up a bit more vigour

And the nearby Primroses in this bed are in full bloom, although if you look crefully, you can see there are masses of Stinging Nettle plants alongside them. I wish I had time to dig some of these out while they are still small, but right now there are other priorities. I try to take a few out whenever I am walking past

In The Polytunnel This Week:

The wood from the staging , and some of the pots under cover were blown about last week, but now things are tidy again.

Under the cloche, are three Casablanca tubers, aiming to get a slightly earlier crop of New Potatoes. The soil has ben well prepared, with compost incorporated, Blood, Fish & Bone added and plenty of water too

The salad box has recovered from being knocked off the staging by the wind, and there are lots of seedlngs now unfurling their leaves

At Home This Week:

In the greenhouse, one of the Pelargonium plants grown from seed last year has burst into flower, giving a real burst of unexpected colour for this time of year

The Spring Onion modular plants are almost ready to start hardening them off, so they can be planted out in the long trough under the new cloche. 

Seed Potatoes are chitting nicely, with the Casablanca First Earlies looking especially keen to get growing. The Kestrels are not far behind them either

On the lawn, the next display of Crocus is underway

 

Three birthdays back, my friend Chris gave me this pot of flowers, and here it is, looking gorgeous once again, outside the backdoor., with some self-sown Nemesia seedlings to keep the pot going in the Summer.. thank you again, Chris!

This coming week,  I aim to get both beds ready for the Potatoes, finish pruning the Bramley tree and get a sowing plan together for March  so I don't miss putting any seeds in, including the new flower seeds, for which I shall have to read the backs of the packets carefully

And if possible, make a start taking the broken arches to pieces so I can assess which wood will still be useable again

See you next Monday!

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

 

21st February - Well Storm Eunice certainly made her presence felt across our exposed Allotment Sites, with most plots being damaged in some way or another

Storm Force 11 winds lifted the whole of the shelter on my plot up and over the 2.4m high back fence into the Lane behind...

,... leaving the front legs draped over the front of the shed,

The sides of the woodstore were torn off, and deposited in the plot across the Lane

And the wooden archways, which were somewhat precarious, almost flattened

The small shed was pushed over, although luckily otherwise undamaged

And so the long clear-up begins. Across the site, many polytunnels were completly destroyed, shed rooves ripped off, greenhouses badly damaged, and a huge fir tree fell down across someone's plot

However, no-one was hurt, none of my crops were damaged  and although pieces of netting flew away these have been recaptured and can be put back on.

I took the polythene off that precious new cloche and put it in one of the sheds, so that is undamaged, thank goodness, and my polytunnels, despite the dodgy zip on the backdoor of one of them, are still intact

It gives an opportunity to rethink and re-design, and consider what is really needed. Mind, you, standing in the pouring rian yesterday, with no covered  shelter in which to sit, certainly affirmed the need to build a new one!! Not the same neceassarily, but one is needed for sure. Also essential is a dry area in which to store wood, as wet wood will soon rot and be no use at all

 

However, in a little glimmer of sunshine, I spotted these Irises in trough , partly under the broken legs of the shelter. See, there are still good things out there!

At home though, most importantly, the house stood up to the gale the garden was a bit windswept but otherwise OK, and the green house undamaged. 

I found time at last to sow some Aquadulce Broad Beans, Curly Early Peas and Solo Beetroot, and to complete the order for some flower seeds. I now need to re-jig things about to make space for these to grow... thinking of redeploying the Giant Cloche Thingy... which also remained undamaged. Who would  have thought that?!

I hope you all stayed safe and have not had too much damage to contend with. I shall try to be back next Monday, with an update on our Site's progress towards having all the plots in use, and the plan for the next seed sowing, plus of course what I shall have been harvesting

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

14th February -  this is the day when folk believed birds started to pair off for nest building, and clearly in my pond the Frogs have taken note of the date too. There is often no spawn in the garden pond for several weeks yet. This time last year everything was frozen, but the milder weather has obviously encouraged them along. MIlder is a relative term, as the wind is absolutely icy and if you stand still too long, you artae to shiver

It has been an enjoyable week though, with kind family and friends giving me birthday gifts, mainly liked to growing or to entertaining Luna. The cat nip snacks keep her busy for ages, as she can smell them under the rug but takes a long time to ferret them out and munch them up.  One of my granddaughters, Kitty, painted a rather good picture of a Barn Owl, one of my favourite birds, which I have to find a special spot for. I also had lots of delicious food, and I especially appreciated having someone else cook for me too

Harvest Monday still manages to provide vegetables, despite it being deep WInter and we start with -

Savoy Cabbages which are at their best> Part of this onehas been steamed and dressed with butter and black pepper, and some made into a curry with dhall and coconut

These ones have relatively small heads which is helpful for me being by myself, and I shall grow some again next year

It is actually working quite well only growing four of each type of Winter Cabbage: Savoy, Janaury KIng, White Ballhead and Red Cabbage. Plenty of variety, enough to share and they look really good in a long row on the plot too!

Parsnips are very sweet now, ideal for roasting with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle and salt and pepper and anay herb you fancy. This week they had some Rosemary added for variety. 

I shall be digging up a good section of this bed soon, as thie area is being re-arranged slightly  to create a long enough bed for the Spring planting Onion Sets, and I need to start preparing the soil very soon.  More Parsnips coming next week then!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli is excellent, and so far not been damaged by the high winds and rain. I hope this continues through the storms predicted later this week. It has such a lovely fresh taste, a and whether it is the main event, as it has been in  pasta dish, or an accompaniment it is woell worth the long growing perios and the space it takes up

Other harvest this week have included Lettuce leaves, Leeks and Rosemary

Out On The Plots This Week:

A lot of time has been spent marking out and numbering new plots, where large areas have been cleared of rubbish and broken down old sheds etc. As our waiting list is so long, we are only offering plots of a reduced size, and these are proving very popular indeed. A full plot is 250 sq m, which is, for many novice growers, a daunting prospect, whereas something 80-90 sqm is much more manageable, yet still large enough to grow a good range of fruit and vegetables. It'll be good to be able to invest a bit of time in my own plots soon though, finishing jobs like replacing the woodchip on some of the paths and general tidying

 The Amsterdam Forcing Carrots have been sown in the new cloche. My friend Chris gave me another Maximum-Minimum thermometer for my birthday, to monitor the temperature inside this cloche, which was very much appreciated.  It will be interesting to compare this with the polytunnel temperatures

Last year, I struggled to keep up with weeding the Onion and Garlic beds. These plants really do not enjoy sharing their root space, so this year I am endeavouring to keep their soil weed free. Today I took out all the small weeds that had alredau grown, and the plants are looking pretty good. Those Red Winter Onions are very slow indeed to grow... I don't remember them being like that last year... but I guess they are making plenty of roots under the soil, even if there is not much top growth as yet.

I found a whole lot of Honesty seedlings in amongst the Shallots. These are difficult to move successully, but I shall try with some  of the smallest,and leave a few there, for both their early flowers and those lovely silvery seedpods in the Autumn

I have almost finished pruning the Lord Derby Apple tree at long last: there are a few long branches I cannot safely reach even with the step stool, so will try with the long handled loppers. Overall though, the tree looks pretty good now, a nice open shape with no branches crossing each other or rubbing together. I can see there are plenty of flower buds too, so this year I hope for a better crop,and one I can reach to harvest too, rather than collect as windfalls

The remaining Apples  trees are all dwarf varieties. Even the Bramley is accessible from the ground, so I shall tackle them in the next couple of days if it is not pouring with rain. Pruning at this time in the year is mainly for shaping of the trees, while the pruning towards the end of the Summer is to encourage the development of fruiting buds. 

I shall also be scruffing in a couple of handfuls of Blood Fish & Bone around the root areas of each of the trees, to help them with blossom development in the next few weeks

The Pear trees are being similarly treated, although I have alreday pruned these

 

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The mixed Salad leaves sown in the polystyrene box are germinating now, so this morning I took the insulating foam pad off the top, so they can get enough light 

With one of the back door zips being broken, there is minimum protection, so I have weighted down the edge of this panel with slabs, which certainly reduced the draught a bit

The other tunnel is much warmer, so I am thinking through agian where the staging is. I have planned to grow Okra in large pots on this, but it may be more sensible to use the warmer tunnel for this. Will it make much difference once the back doors are open anyway? Have to have a think

At Home This Week:

I don't seem to have been at home all that much to be honest, what with the frequent visits to the site to escort prospective tenants around, along time pruning, and being able to visit family, not much here has been done

There was an almost-disaster when the Chilli and Aubergine seedlings in the greenhouse collapsed like old cotto threads, draped across the surface of the soil. Luckily they revived after a good drink... whew! Although it is likely to have set them back a bit, there is plenty of growing time in front of them still.

The final coat of paint for the cupboard remains in the tin... although I have actually bought the paint I suppose, and the flower seeds remain unsorted. 

What I do have though is an up-to-date record of who has which plot on our site, complete with contact details for them too, which is fairly important. Bearing in mind we have just under 250 plots, it has taken quite some slog, but now it is done we should be able to keep it current and will make communicaiton much more straightforward

The pot I had forgotten contained yellow Crocuses, has surprised me again, with pretty blue forgotten Iris reticulata popping up now!

I also spent an afternoon learning  a little bit about flower arranging...not that fancy twisty style, but how to basically make a bunch of flowers look good in a container, which is much more use to me! The best tips I came away with were to have scrunched up wire mesh in the vessel, and to use more foliage

Well, I always have plenty of bits of wire mesh in the shed on the plots, and plenty of different leaves around, so I shall try to not just bung a bunch of flowers in a vase, but give them more opportunity to shine. This arrangement looked very delicate and pretty before it had to travel about in the boot of my car for a while, but it is still lovely sitting in the kitchen on the part painted cupboard, and I really enjoyed the afternoon

By this time next week, most of our vacant plots will, I hope,  be tenanted, and I can spend a bit more time on my own area , to -

- complete the pruning of the Apple trees, most of which can be done from ground level so will be much quicker, and aim to

- finish adding new woodchip to the paths while it is available. 

- prep the bed for the Onions 

- give Onions and Garlic already in the ground a good measure of chicken manure pellets added to the soil now, to give their leaf growth a boost

- plant the earliest Potato tubers in the polytunnel 

and even try to sort my flower seeds!!

Hope everyone else is OK: I shall be back next Monday, with some measure of progress if all goes well

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

February 7th- I always remember February as being the coldest month, and as it is my birthday too, it is easier to pinpoint memories of icy pavements and snowy hillsides to this month. Despite the impact of Global warming, it is still -2.6C  in the polytunnel first thing in the morning and puddles along the lane are frozen over

It is also the time that the earliest flowers start to stir, and this afternoon there was a lovely surprise in the garden: growing out of a crack in the path is this beautiful Primrose, I have no idea where it came from,as  I have no other Primroses in the garden. I know seeds can travel for miles, but Primrose seeds are spread by ants or small rodents, not the wind. A mystery , but a welcome sight anyway. I am happy to step over it on the path and enjoy those gorgeous flowers.

Harvest Monday is usually a little thin this month though.

I am always pleased to see Purple Sprouting Broccoli though, and am glad I  grow an early variety, as the traditional ones are not usually ready to pick for another few weeks

This will  go into a pasta dish, with some cheese sauce later on, which I am very much looking forward to!

Other harvests this week have included Oregano, Onion Green, Lettuce, Leeks and Parsley

I am always glad to have a good range of vegetables in store, and Carrots from the box of soil in the garage were welcome this week, along with Onions and Potatoes. These are both starting to sprout now, so I am keeping careful eye on them to remove any that are past their best

Out On The Plots This Week:

There has been a lot of hard physical graft on at our Site again this week. Our local Council, as part of the deal when we volunteered to manage the letting of plots, agreed to clear the vacant ones of rubbish, old broken greenhouses etc, and this is leaving us with large areas of what basically looks like ploughed fields

With such a long waiting list for a plot, we are creating as many smaller sized plots as we can in these spaces, and so far have four 60sqm and ten 80sqm new plots, rather than four and a half full sized ones

They are neatly marked out and numbered, just waiting to be adopted. The four of us involved in this should really be known as The Mudlarks from here on, for obvious reasons! Gary's comment about feeling ten pounds lighter when he'd cleaned his shosof mud was echoed by us all, and all clothing went straight into the laundry as soonas we were home

This has not left much time for working on our own plots, but I have managed to part prune the huge Lord Derby Apple tree, opening up the centre of it again. It will be much better for it, and I hope to finish it this week coming if at all possible. I think loppers will be needed

The new coldframe stood up to the gale-force winds and the heavy rain, and now that I have give the compost in one of the containers a good soak, I can sow Carrots now: Amsterdam Forcing, for a nice early crop

I have sited the new Hotbin, and bought a plinth to seat it on, which will make it easier to drain off the seepage for use as a fertiliser... except there is no drainage plugholr...... I have ordered a plug, but also asked the company who sell these the best way to install it. So it sits there, with just some sticks in the bottom, surrounded by builderss' trugs of all sorts of comppostables, that are waiting to go in and get hot!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Tunnel No 1 is weeded, new staging tidied, with the soil for the early Potatoes nicely watered a covered by a large cloche. I think this coming week may be the time for planting: the tubers won't get frosted under the ground, and the cloche will protect them when they come up. I can put insulating fleece over it as wll if we get really cold weather

The Lettuces are really growing well. This is the bed where I incorporated that worm cast compost in the Autumn, so it is good to compare with the Lettuces in Tunnel 2, which had composted maize stalks in the soil. So far, there doesn't seem to be much difference between them. I didn't leave any withour feeding the soil...that would perhaps have shown if soil feeding increases the harvest

I have sown the early Salad Leaf Mix, which, looking at the seeds seems to have  a high proportion of Perpetual Spinach in it,  two kinds of Lettuce and some Mustard Greens: all will be welcome on my plate!   As the nights are still pretty cold, I have insulated the top of the box with a thick foam kneeling pad for now. The box they are in is 3cm thick polystyrene, so they shoud be cosy enough

Tunnel No 2 is a bit warmer, because the back door zips are still in one piece, and it gets a bit more sunshine too. There are masses of self sown Miners' Lettuce/Purslane seedlings, most of which are large enough to eat, so I must start harvesting these. The four Spring Cabbages are fine, growing quite slowly so perhaps in need of a further feed now, something like chicken manure pellets which are high in Nitrogen. There are also piles of compostables awaiting the Hotbin.... the instruction say to put a lot in at once. I certainly won't have nay truoble with that!

At Home This Week:

Just to add to the non-growing jobs this week, my new bed arrived (at looooong last), which led to a flurry of activity , and I also decided to start work on renovating the large cupboard that will become the home for all my sewing bits and pieces, of which there are many

It is moved now from the dining room to the kitchen, and so far has had two coats of nice clean white paint: top coat still to go. The handles for the drawers and cupboard doors are  removed, new ones ordered ...plain wood so I can paint them to match the walls... so the screw holes for the old handles need to be filled, rubbed down etc before final painting.

Luckily seedlings in the greenhouse don't need too much attention, just the occasional water. As you can see, the Leeks are just fine

And the Aubergines are doing what they should be, as are the Chillies and Sweet Peppers. I noticed the none of the seeds of a "Wsste Indian Flavour" given to my by Alston have come up yet though.

Wherever I go at home, I have my little stripy  shadow, who sometimes views the world from the safety of the Fig tree. At least I'll not trip over her when she is up there!

I'd forgotten that I planted early Crocus in this pot, so their appearance was a nice surprise this afternoon When the sun shines on them, they will open to glorious golden goblets, which I look forward to enjoying

 

In this comiing week, as well as finishing painting the cupboard, marking out and numbering more plots on our Site, finishing pruning the big  Apple tree...possibly attempting the Bramley too... I really must get those Broad Beans and Early Peas Sown, and the bed where the Onion sets are to be planted needs attention too. This will have ot wait until the pruning is finished though, as branches will  fall onto it. 

Everything in its own order

I shall be a whole year older this time next week, so I am also looking forward to time to celebrate that with family ,and with friends

I hope life is going well for all of you too, and next Monday I hope to be able to report back that plot marking is over and new tenants arriving shortly!

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com