April 2022

 

25th April - this feels like the driest April ever. The sunshine is enjoyable, but the wind is still chill, and the two together dry the soil quickly, meaning seedlings need extra watering, careful watering so they are not washed away, but enough to give the soil a decent soak and encourage their roots to delve deep.

Fruit blossom is looking glorious, the birds are singing from just before dawn through to dusk and there is much to be thankful for. There is still plenty of food in store, now being supplemented by the beautiful freshness of salad crops. I am looking forward to new season Potatoes in a few weeks

Do check out what other growers are harvesting in other parts of the world through Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave. Link is at the end. Always interesting to see

Harvest Monday begins with one of my favourites that I really look forward to: that first little bunch of Radishes> Yes, Cherry Belle, of course, and yes, they are a bit small but large enough to enjoy, with more to come. With a little chunk of cheese and some Mixed Salad Leaves from the box in the polytunnel they were delicious

A little bonus harvest from the January KIng Cabbage that wasn't harvested: It was a bit on the small side, and had a few slug munchies on it too, but look what it grew. Lots of flowering stalks that were just like a big bunch of Broccoli!!

Tihs is only half of the bunch. There was enough for a great contribution to a stir fry, plus a very tasty risotto as well.

And the slug damaged bits all went into the compost of course

Another four Asparagus spears, griddled with melted butter and eaten, before I remembered to take a photo, but i hope to have more ro show you in the coming weeks

Out On The Plots This Week:

I have at last managed to sort out batteries for the strimmer and cut the grass along the paths on #145, which looks much more welcoming now, as well as making it much easier to walk about.There are a few bisthat need going over again but I shall try to get this done in between other jobs, and vow not to leave it until the grass is long next time, just do it regularly. Easier said than remembered of course

One major job has been to put together the base for the new shed , which is expected to arrive on Wednesday. You can see the base in the background here, behind the Apple tree. It is a modular, clip together structure suitable to lay on bare ground if necessary, nt just concrete, guaranteed for 25 years. 

I am so looking forward to the shed's arrival, as then all the things that are pushed to one side to allow space to put it together, or that will live inside it, can be out of the way again, and that whole area will be useable once again.  Yes, I shall have to paint it.( Ihave the paint already) and I'd like to make a windowbox for the yellow and orange Begonias if I can. I have the wood ready too, and the brackets!!   I used ti have one on the side of the shelter, so it will be good if I can replace it in some way            

I am beginning to prepare the beds for Summer crops now, starting with the one on #145 where the  Tomato plants will be. They will not fill the whole bed though, so a third of it has been sown with other crops: Beetroot, both round and cylindrical, Mooli, Milan Purple Top Turnip and Florence Fennel.

Every year I leave sowing Fennel too late for those succulent, aniseed flavoured, juicy bulbs to form, so this year, not only have I sown it as soon as is reasonable weather-wise, I have sown it directly too, rather than in modules. I shall try to transplant any thinnings, but they have never done well in the past. This may be the year I have decent Fennel: we shall see!

There might be space for Dwarf French Beans in that same bed as well: hope so, as they were  a real success last year, although if not , they do well in large pots, perhaps alongside the new shed

Thisone  is the hardest of the beds to get ready, hardest literally, as it is the bed which housed the Winter Cabbages. Cabbages like very firm soil around them to their stem stays still and not rock about in the wind. Only then do they make those tight, spectacular heads of leaves we all love. Soft soil equals loose-leaved heads. Of course now I cannot sow seeds into that solid surface so it has to be broken up, and mulched well with compost, to be viable for the next crops to thrive

The beds that have been covered since the Autumn will be just lovely underneath, ready to get another layer of compost added that the worms will help incorporate. Oh , there is the bed the Winter Broccoli was in to break the soil up. I almost forgot about that one, where the Squashes will be planted. Thye do like a nice rich soil, so more compost will be neeeded there. Luckily Bin No 2 is good to go when needed

The Onion, Shallot and Garlic beds on #145 are weeded again, and have been well watered

Potatoes are all up. I have constructed wooden frames around the beds to retain compost, and have added this on about  a quarter of one bed. It is going to take a while, as Bin No 3 is the one with an Apple tree partly across the front of it, but with some judicious pruning, I can now actually shovel out the compost. It is very dry, but a very good dark colour, and once it is soaked it will be  a great mulch for the Potatoes

The Hotbin experiment hasn't yet been that successful, because in my enthusiasm to fill the bin, I didn't realise that  a strong strap is needed to hold on the front hatchway, and it keeps coming off with the downward pressure of the compost. I need to empty the bin, put on the strap and start again. The contents are part rotted, and I can put part of this load into Bin No 3 once this is empty, and part back into the Hotbin with some extra grass cuttuings to help it heat up

The recently sown Carrots are all now coming up, including the purple variety, and I noticed some Parnip seedlings just  breaking through the soil surface yesterday too. THat moment when I see Pransip plants starting to grow is  a sort of milestone into proper Springtime for me. Some years they seem to take for ever to appear, but this year getting on for four weeks, which isn't too bad really. Glad to see them!

The Red Mason Bees have hatched out and are desperatey looking for suitable tubes or tunnels to lay their eggs in. The Bee Hotels were all attached to the legs of the shelter, which was wrecked in the storms. I have fixed this one up for them but I think it may be a bit high...another job to do, sort out suitable spots for new bee hotels! I have 

In The Polytunnels This Week:

I have done a lot of clearing up of pots etc, weeding, and added worm cast compost to the beds in the cooler tunnel and home made compost to those in the warmer one. I just want to see if there is any difference in soil fertility between the two really, although with one being  a little sunnier than the other it is probably not a fair comparison. I really must think of a way making a nen the warmer tunnel, the Broad Bean and Pea plants are growing steadily, and the Tenderstem Broccoli seedlings are starting to develop their first set of true leaves. I shall be transplanting these when they are large enough, some to be alongside the Peas and others outside, under a cloche initially, until they are hardened off

The space to the other side is for Cucumbers on  a net support, and a single Courgette plant, which is currently growing in the greenhouse at home. I might try to move it here soon, if I can find a cloche tall enough to keep it snug, as it is quite large now 

Tomotoes will be in the bed across the path this Summer, with Lettuces plented in front of them: these are Lakeland, a crisphead variety which I hope flourish. I might also put some more Spring Onions in here too

In the cooler tunnel, the baby Spring Cabbages are growing really quickly, and so I've moved the coldframe from around them, as they can cope perfectly well with the wind coming through the windows now.  The red leaved plants by them are Orache seedlings, which make interesting additions to salad from time to time, and if there are too many, they go in the compost.

These have arrived from Jane's plot next door, but are a welcome addition. Out on the plot a few will be lft to grow to full size, as they look very architectural, but under cover  they soon grow a bit too large, so I might as well eat them!

The Beetroot plants along the front are fine, Radishes are a harvestable size now and the earliest Potatoes have stems over 30cm tall. I hope they start developing tubers down under the ground soon

Spinach plants are now in the space right by the doorflap that stays open all the time, so I moved the old coldframe over to give them a bit of protection from the draught until they settle in. I hope there are enough to give decent pickings as they grow...

And continuing with my aim to have a wider variety of cut flowers, I bought some little Antirrhinum plants and allowed them precious polytunnel space. Hope the flowers will be scented!

At Home This Week:

I have been sowing seeds, just a few!!, This pussy-cat face says it all... Really, not MORE seeds. I am fed up with them now. Let's play a catnip game instead!!

So far there are in the greenhouse:

Second crop Broad Beans

Maincrop Peas, Mangetout & Sugar Snap

Courgettes (Not too many!)

Butternut Squash (Using a variety recommended by another lot holder: Butterfly)

West Indian Cucumbers (Only need 2 plants this year, not three!)

Tomatoes (all ones for outdoors are Blight resistant varieties)

Sweetcorn, Purple Sprouting Broccoli: Early & Maincrop

Savoy Cabbage

White Ballhead Cabbage

Calabrese (very poor crop last year, so getting off to an earlier start)

Romanescu ( iwas very taken by these last year, so am trying to give them a better start this time around)

Swede (last year I forgot, and sowed it far too late)

Cosmos

Sunflowers

The Chillies and Peppers that survived the "drought" earlier in the greenhouse are potted on and looking fairly reasonable now. I am not growing the masses of the last few years, as I end up with so many I cannot use them all, or even give them away in the end! I am trying to be much more sensible and make better use of the space. Same with Aubergines: I really don't need to grow a dozen plants: really, two or three would do! 

Needless to say the greenhouse is having regular re-organisation, and the flowers being potted on, I shall have to start hardening these off down in the polytunnel soon.

Jobs this week should include:

- Watering!!

- Put up Bee Hotels

- Finishing adding compost to the Potato beds and re-attaching the front of Bin No 3

- Unloading the hotbin, and adding the strap to stop the bottom panel coming off. Putting half the contants back mixed with grass cuttings, and the rest in Bin No 3

- Weeding the Onion & Garlic beds on #146

- Sowing Runner Beans Cimbing and Dwarf Rench Beans in modules

-Potting on Zinnias, French Marigolds and Blue Lace flowers

- weeding the direct sown Purple-podded NIgella and Ammi majus now I can identify the seedlings

Put insect proof covers over Onion and Garlic beds

SHED!!!!!

And ths time next week I hope the shed is up and able to be used... I'll post some photos, of course!!

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

 

18th April --Happy Easter!! We have had a glorious Easter Weekend, with wall-to-wall sunshine and lovely warm days, just right for working outside in the garden or on the allotment. IN fact it has been so dry I have watered the beds out on the plots, especially the Onions and Garlic, to make sure they keep growing well. There was time to catch uo with family and friends too, all in all a great Easter-time

Harvest Monday has a very unexpected addition: Asparagus The plants are now in their third year, and so I am looking forward to being able to cut some spears. I wasn't expecting any this month though! I have been careful to keep the beds free of weeds, mulched fed and watered, and it seems to have paid off. Not sure when the next spears might appear, but for now, I shall be enjoying these with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon later this evening

Other harvests this week have included a whole range of salad leaves including Rocket, Winter Cabbage and  Parsnips

Out on The Plots This Week:

One of our recent initiatives to improve the environment on our site is a Rubbish Amnesty: tenants are being encouraged to get rid of all sorts of unwanted items from their shed and plots, from old plastic compost bags, ancient chemicals, var tyres or broken tools, to basically anything they are not going to use.

In two weeks' time, this huge pile will be taken away by our local Council. What an enourgament for a good Spring Clean!

Of course a lot of what is being discarded still has a use, and I acquired three large sheets of heavy duty, transparent plastic, which I hope I can use to make a waterporrof cover for the woodstore area. The downside was that is was thick with dried mud. Today, I cleaned these on both sides, with a stiff broom, anticipating I would also need to wash them off, but in fact they were pretty clean after their initial scrub over, so they are now neatly rolled up and stored in my big shed. Lovely!

The earliest ones are already in flower further along the path. These easily self seed, and have now migrated over to my neighbourJane's plot for her to enjoy

I weeded the Onions and Garlic before I went away, but already they need attention again. The Shaoots have now divided into several small bulbs. I have left a few of the small Honesty plants in, as these will provide insects with plenty of nectar in  afew weeks' time

The Garlic is responding well to the Blood, Fish & Bone added to the soil, and I am keeping it well watered too. This is Solent Wight: other varieties are planted in  abed next door, and are looking just as healthy

And the Elephant Garlic stems are fattening up nicely, whih means that under the ground theose cloves are now starting to develop 

This year I plan to grow more flowers for cutting, starting with Spring bulbs, and today I cut a  bunch of Tulips to take home, along with some stems of brilliant blue-flowered Alkanet. Some see this as a weed, and I do try to keep it out of the beds, but let it grow along the verges, where it looks very pretty,,, and will at home in a vase as well, with some teeny tiny multi-headed Daffodils

All the other newly planted flowers are putting on fresh growth: the Rose bushes are looking very healthy, the LIlies are poking their heads up and the perennial plants are looking full of promise

The other new addition has been my new cloche, where vegetables are growing really quickly: the Beetroot plants are twice the size of the ones in the polytunnel, although whether this means the actual Beetroots will be ready sooner I don't know. The Spring Onions certainly are thickening up now and the Radishes arre growing plenty of leaves

The Carrot seeds were a little old, and did not all germinate, but those that did have proper Carrot leaves now, and I expect these to be ready to harvest before those sown outsde ten days ago, or those sown a week earlier in the polytunnel

 

In The Polytunnels This WeeK:

The Carrots have germinated, and are far enough part to not need to thin them out yet. I hope when I do, to have Carrots large enough to eat.  I took out the tiny weed seedlings today, which gives the Carrots more soil-space for their roots. Worth the slightly fiddly weeding

The Lettuces are out of shot to the left of the Carrots, and I am eating my way through these now: Cucumbers will then take their space

Alongside the Carrots are a few Red Frills Mustard seedlings Jane gave me, and then the green Khol Rabi transplanted this afternoon. I do hope the Voles leave them alone instead of chewing off their leaves. I did wonder about putting a cloche over them, but have risked leaving them uncovered

There is also a row of Flat Leaf Parsley, plus that Rocket that has been going on for ever!

Across the path are the Early Potatoes under a cloche, with a row of Beetroot in front, and a row of Red Orache pathside.  The Cherry Belle Radishes further alongwill be large enough to harvest within days, and wide leaved Rocket is already transplanted behind them, as they will soon have plenty of space to grow as the Radishes are eaten

I am trying to make the most of the space for these early Summer crops, especially as it is so hard to predict what the weather will be like in the coming weeks. It could so easily turn cold again, who knows?

Sweet Corn will be going in near the far end, with some initial protection from cloches... I must sort their seeds out soon

 

 

In the other tunnel, the Broad Beans and early Peas are making themselves at home, with the area beyond sown with Coriander, Spinach and Tenderstem Broccoli

This germinated really quickly. Once it has developed two or three proper leaves, it will be transplanted over into the other tunnel alongside the Khol Rabi plants, and this space will be given to a single Courgette plant

The bed opposite is for the Tomato plants this Summer, which initially will have some extra protection from tall cloches, I need to plan when to sow these really

Currently there are four Spring Cabbages growing, wheihc are beginning to head up now. The Winter Cabbages are almost at an end now, so these will be very welcome as a brighst fresh vegetable

 

The tunnels feel much more organised now, with spaces mostly allocated for the coming weeks. I now need to work out a sowing plan

At Home This Week:

The sunshine has woken lots of insects from the Winter sleep, including these Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillars, feasting on Alkanet leaves in the front garden at home. There is quite a colony of these Moths locally now, and I always leave plenty of Alkanet for the larvae to fill up on before they pupate

In the back garden I have seen all sorts of Butterflies this week: Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Brimstone and Peacocks galore, and there are plenty of flowers for them to feed

These bright  red Camellias have been able to stay undamaged without frosts around, and are a beautiful sight near the back door

One of the new Apple trees has burst into flower, and it gives a hint of what this may look like in years to come, fnned across the fence

 

Another Apple tree that always reliably flowers prolifically, is the Valentine. The fruits are bright red and very small, without much flavour, but the tree is worth its space in the garden for the flowers alone. 

There are a myriad of jobs this week, from cutting the grass in the garden and at the plot, sorting a sowing plan and making a start on this, as well as starting to prepare beds at the plot for Summer and Autumn crops, such as Tomatoes, Climbing Beans, Squashes, Purple Sprouing Broccoli etc

There will be plenty orf watering to keep up with too, and will be back next Monday to klet you know how the week goes

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

 

11th April - A week away in Cornwall was a break from working at the plot, despite the really cold and wet weather. Spending time with family was greart, and we visited lots of places: The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan... and the Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, which was an unexpected hit with my youngest grand daughter!

 

Harvest Monday shows what I took with us from the plot, starting with green herbs: Wild Garlic, Parsley and Rocket ... yes, the same Rocket that I sowed in January 2021 in the polytunnel is still going strong, with lots of lovely tender new leaves now

 

And woody herbs: Rosemary, Thyme and Sage

This white ball head Cabbage came too.. always useful as a side dish or part of a curry

And  a few Leeks: there are plenty left in the ground too, so I must start to use these before they develop folwer stalks, even if I have to freeze some. Their current space will be given over to manicrop Peas and Broad Beans pretty soon, so they will need to be moved on 

And as these Hyacinths were not going to last until I came home, I cut them for my Daughter in Law to enjoy

 

Everything seems to have survived my absence. The Pear blossom is out now, both at the plot and in the garden at home, so I hope this year it is not damaged by frost before fruit set.

There  are some jobs that need attention of course:

- Sow maincrop Peas and Broad Beans in modules

- Prick out Khol Rabi seedlings...  keep these in the cold frame

- Add a deep layer of compost to the Early Potatoes bed ... the wooden surrounds to contain this are in place now

- Feed the soil in the Onion and Garlic beds with Blood, Fish & Bone

That will keep me busy for sure!

I had intended to do some work out on the plots this morning, especially as the sun was shining, but one of the fishtanks needed the filter box cleaned, a big box that lives in the cupboard underneath the tank. What should have taken les than an hour took me several hours, with the dining room floor flooded, the seal-clips on the filter falling to pieces and half the water from the tank needing to be replaced. And my slippers were soaked too! At least it is all done now, and once the water clears properly it will all be fine. No work on the plot today!

I hope you are all enjoying the start ofthe growing season. I shall be back next Monday with more updates, hopefully with some of those jobs completed

 

.

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