May 2022

23rd May - Summer is nearly upon us and the strength of the sun has increased already, to the point where I am having to ensure tender plants newly set out are not scorched, and that the polytunnels are well ventilated.

We had an amazing thunderstorm earlier in the week, with lightning flashes that went on for ages, seeming all the brighter as it was night time. Despite a short deluge of rain, the soil remins very dry indeed, and regular watering of crops is taking a long time. Essential of course. 

The shed is proving a great place to shelter from the sun, as well as the rain, and I enjoyed sitting at the new potting table there this week potting up seedling Cabbages while it rained outside! Great to have somewhere comfortable for such jobs! A few bits left to do before it is finished, but the plants take priority right now, so they can wait

 

Two lovely crops this week, both "Firsts of the Season" to celebrate Harvest Monday

Spinach, grown under the new staging in the polytunnel, a variety called Amazon. This has grown quickly and although I have taken a few small leaves for salad, this is the first proper picking, which as you can see, is unmarked by slugs or mud splash and looks just perfect! Definitely worth its place, and with regualr watering, I hope it continues to crop for some time yet

These leaves went into  Potato & Spinach Curry

Other harvests this week included a few "Volunteer" Potatoes, MInt for tea, more Spring Onions and the very last few Leeks

 

and these lovely , somewhat wavy-looking Carrots. They were grown in a deep polystyrene box in the new coldframe, and have been so good I am going to make a late sowing in a second box, hoping they will over-Winter successfully. A different variety though, a maincrop one such as Autumn Kng perhaps

Really pleased with this frame, it is certainly proving to be much more productive an area that having the Strawberry tables there, and the tables have made very sturdy staging in one of the polytunnels: win-win really. 

Out On The Plots This Week:

It has been incredibly hot by mid day most days, making heavy work outside very uncomfortable. I have however managed to clear the bed for this year's maincrop of Peas, and move the large wire frame securely into position> Now there are Hurst Greenshaft Peas, Nairobi Sugarsnaps and Sweet Sensation Mangetout planted out. The sun was so fierce I had to put up some shade netting for them or they would have just shrivelled

The is enough space left alongside for the last of the BOrad Beans to be planted too

This bed is overhung by a branch of a Cherry tree (sold as a "dwarf" variety!!!) which is not very producitve. I had every intention of removing this branch to give the bed more light, but with all the extra work resulting from the storm, I didn't get it done

Looking up, wondering if I should chance it and take it out now, (wrong time in the year to prune stone-fruit trees) I realised there is a huge crop of fruit on it! I shall be making some sleeves to protect them from the birds , which gobble down cherries as soon as they start to ripen, and am looking forward to a real bonus crop there! I reckon the tree knew what I was planning and tried to make itself useful after all

The bed intended for Squashes needs clearing next, getting rid of the old Brassica stems and weeds that have sprung up, giving it a good deep soak and adding some extra compost, and then in the plants can go.

I also have to find soace for a couple of cCOurgette plants, and get the Celeriac planted as well

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Sadly, the Pheasant seems to have abandoned her nest, just leaving overnight not to be seen again. There were no signs she had been taken by a fox, she was just gone, leaving no feathers behind her, just her cold eggs. Whether or not she knew these were not going to hatch, perhaps an infertile clutch, who knows? 

I left the eggs for for a few days, so my grandchildren, visiting at the weekend, can see them, but after that the Rocket bed will be brought back under control and the ground alongside readied for another crop

 

I have finished off the run of table-staging now, which is currently full of plants being looked after for a friend on holiday, some  of mine that are  waiting to be planted out in the tunnel, such as Lettuce, and outside, like the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese. I am just wating for these to grow another set of full leaves and then they can go in the ground in the big Brassica cage

Eventually this will be for Chillies, Sweet Peppers and Okra (plus one Aubergine plant if it survives) , grown in pots.

The space underneath is proving succesful for Spinach, Summer Cabbages and Lettuce so far. Wondering if Japanese Greens would enjoy the more shady spot too?  Might direct sow  afew to see how they go when I have cleared that final corner of last year's Onions ...

Pak Choi is now planted out, a red leaff variety, half in one tunnel and half in the other, and some of the Dwarf French Bean plants are also in, The reminging few will go into containers, where kast year they did exceptionally well

The Sweetcorn plants are looking promising behind their Pheasant-proofing fence. I shall take this off now though, as it is no longer needed, which will make weeding  a bit easier, and aslo allow space to sort the Cucumber supports out

The Broad Beans have plenty of pods growing now, but unlike last year, they do not appear to be growing more flowers, so I shall cut the plants shorter, and accept  asmall crop this year. It will mean that the space they are in will become available for another crop a little sooner though, so I shal have to give some thought to that

The Curly Early Peas have masses of pods growing, as you can see in this week's lead photo. They are getting plenty of water to help swell the Peas, and I am really looking forward to those first pods

The Courgette plant is still producing masses of male flowers: I hope it gets the idea soon that female flowers are also needed!!

At Home This Week:

The trays of Tomato and Squash seedlings had a little sojourn in the kitchen, en route to the polytunnel. It was far too hot in the greenhouse for them, so a nice cool spell on the kitchen floor did them all good I think.

The bubble plastic is at last out of the greenhouse, but there is a mass of tangled Grape vine now to deal with, complete with developing bunches of grapes. The plastic is at least ten years old and is so brittle it is impossible to keep it for a further year, so it will have to go to  the local tip. I can get some nice new flexible stuff for next Winter

I potted on the Swede and Winter Cabbage seedlings, but they really do look dreadful. The Swede in particular has completely had it, so I shall re-sow. The Winter Cabbage may just survive, under the staging in the polytunnel where it is relatively cool. Purple Sprouting Broccoli seems to be fine however. The Swede was just too lanky I think, being left too long before potting on. New seeds sown this morning "Best of All" which I hope lives up to its name

 

Jobs in the coming week include:

-tackling the rampant grape vine

- sowing the Okra seeds tomorrow, and putting them on the heat mat

- planting the remaining Broad Bean plants out on #146

-preparing the Squash bed on #145

- planting the Tomato plants in the polytunnels, using those plant halos

- planting out the Celeriac 

 

 

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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

 

17th May - hottest day of the year so far, which has meant plenty of watering of course, but at least the laundry dried quickly!  

It is gradually feeling less and less likely there will be further frosts in our area, although with the Allotment site being right at the bottom of the Thames Valley, you can't be too sure. On one hand, the river water retains some heat and staves off the worst of the cold, but on the other hand the cold frosty air rolls down both sides of the valley. Still got covers at the ready for the Potato beds just in case, and wrappings for the Runner Beans

Clear sunny skies during the day often mean clear colder nights, so let's not be complacent

Harvest Monday has much of the same as the past couple of weeks, but there is one newcomer to the table today

Spring Cabbage Flower of Offenheim have been growing in the polytunnel since last Autumn, and have made some lovely crunchy heads now! This one is good enough to make a slaw from! I have three more following on, which will be plenty, as there are other Spring Cabbages growing  too, planted out mid Spring to crop much later. I am trying hard not to have everythign ready at once

Other harvests this week have included more Beetroot and Spring Onions from the cloche, more  Perennial Spinach and a good helping of Lettuce, Rocket and Wild Garlic leaves, as well as the last of the Cherry Belle Radishes from the polytunnel

Out On The Plots This Week:

The new shed is now looking very purposeful, although I have had to resist spending ages on improving the inside further, as there is so much else needing doing. I only allow myself one shed-related task a day! Next up will be cutting the section of left over flooring to fit the potting table top, and attaching it with left over galvanised roofing nails 

All the canes are in the woodpile corner, standing sensibly in a large blue barrel - I drilled holes in the bottom for obvious reasons - and all the short and medium lengths of wood are standing in old builders' trugs so are easily accessible , and it is much safer to walk about now

Big seasonal jobs, like the prep of the 5m long veg beds on #145 are underway, and space for the Celeriac plants is good to go. The outdoor Tomato space and the area for Squashes and Sweetcorn will be tough though, as these have not been covered, meaning the ground is iron hard and not easy to weed. Compost is needed on these two as well, whereas the Brassica bed and th bed for climbing beans was well supplied with compost in the Autumn before being covered for the Winter. One small section at a time is the way forward.

I don't want to leave it too long before I plant out the Squashes, because once their leaves are huge, they lose water at a tremndous rate beofre their roots have recovered from moving, and so can take a real set back, or even die off completely. This'll be the one I start on in the morning!!

 

Two wigwams of Runner Beans are planted out, surrounded by wire mesh to deter Pigeons and possible Rabbits. There are also some Lettuce planted behind them, which will be harvested before the leaf coverage from the Bean plants becomes a problem. The weather was so hot the day I put them in, I had to erect some shade netting while their roots got settled and working properly after thier disturbance. One lot is Red Enorma and the other, over on #146, White Ensign.

There is space still for two more wigwams, one for drying beans (Borlotti and Blacksmith) and one for  French Beans (Sunshine and Bleuhilde), all of which have only just been sown today at home

The butterfly proof cage for the tall Brassicas is now up, slightly longer than last year, so I shall have to stitch an extra length of netting on the end. It is held on for now with clothes pegs

This cage always takes a battering in the Winter, so in an attempt to make it more robust, I have cable tied each "leg" to a wooden stake firmly hammered into the ground. Let's hope it does the trick. It will be there until next March at least, so it is worth the extra effort

So far there are Dwarf Curly Kale  nd Brussel Sprout plants in the bed... they always look so tiny, but of course the Sprout plant will grow fairly large and need staking later too. Space is there for Purple Sprouting Broccoli, which I shall pot on later this afternoon (or tomorrow) the earliest cropping Calabrese, and hopefully enough for some Romanesco too

It is now far too hot under the polythene cloche cover, so I have exchanged this for debris netting, which will allow good air circulation and keep out most pests. This cloche has been very successful addition, with excellent Beetroot and Spring Onions much earlier than outside, or even in the polytunnel. I have more Spring Onions sown now, and also need to decide what to put in the long planter to follow on after the Beetroot ,as they  will soon be all harvested. Don't want to keep a space like that empty!  Maybe a late crop of dwarf beans?

There will be space for any potted Winter Cabbages on the ground inside too, while awaiting their permanent home. 

The poly-cover is rolled up now to store, using the inside cardboard tube from the shed flooring. Stops it from getting too crinkly

These are my favourite Irises ever. They originally came from my Dad's garden, and were always in flower for his birthday in June, wafting the most wonderful parma violet-like perfume round the garden. Dad is long gone now, but part of him lives on through these gorgeous Bearded Irises. I have managed to multiply them into several clumps over the years, and although their season is short, it is very special to me

Not all the flowers are large and showy... this little trough of Pansies sits in from of the Bulb Bath, and looks gorgeous!

This is another area which needs attention, although it is way down the list right now, with priority being given to growing areas for a few weeks

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Lots of moving things around to accommodate the last table/staging, which is now sitting across the Spinach. I think it will be fine though, and hopefully continue to grow well for a few more weeks

The uninvited guest is still sitting tight in amongst the bed of Rocket. I thought it wouldn't be too much longer before those eggs hatch, mistakenly thinkig Pheasant eggs took around 14 days. Having checked that, it is twice that time!!! Looks like she may be there for another two weeks or so. She doesn't seem to mind me working right next to her, and I have jusr accepted that the end metre of that bed  will be used for a later crop, probably salad leaves or Perpetual Spinach. I shall have to take the cloches off the Sweetcorn plants though as they are started to bend over. Perhaps some chicken wire around them will keep them safe. Hope so!

 

I am trying to ensure a steady supply of Calabrese this year and so have three different varieties, six plants of each, now potted on and looking fairly OK. As always, there isn't space to plant most of these outside until other crops mature, namely the Garlic on #146. I shall move them into larger ( 15cm) pots and grow them on in the netted cloche, which should keep butterlies off them.

The second crop of Radishes is growing well, and the Antirrhinum plants are looking good so far. Really pleased to see that the Kohl Rabi plants are developing nice swollen stem bases. Keeping them well watered, which should hasten them on a bit. Looking forward to eating these, one of my favourites

In the second tunnel, the single Courgette plant is now in flower, but so far not had a male flower open at the same time as a female one, and I couldn't find anyone who had a Courgette in flower to borrow one. I picked a tiny courgette though, all of 5cm long!

The Pea plants have lots of pods developing, and the Tenderstem Broccoli plants, although still quite small, look healthy

Next job is to prep the Tomato bed, and plant out the Dwarf French Bean plants, currently in the greenhouse ta home, along the front edge of the bed

An almost crisis was averted when I noticed that a nut had fallen off the tunnel frame, leaving two struts unsupported ---took me ages to find the missing nut in amongst the bark chip in that corner, and of course it had to be in the area behind the little potting bench, which had to be moved. Just glad it is now all fixed

At Home This Week:

I have laboured long and hard, as many do at this time in the year, to sow the remaining crops in modules (West Indian Borlotti, Blacksmith Beans, CLimbing French Beans and White Lisbon Spring Onions), all in modules, and pot on the various Tomatoes, Squashes and Cucumbers, currently all sitting in trays on the kitchen floor. The Calabrese plants have gone to the polytunnel 

The bubble plastic insulation is still up in the greenhouse, and taking it down is tricky without damaging any plants. The plants still there (flowers, Celeriac, Sweetcorn,  French Beans and Chillies) will be off to the polytunnel very soon, and then I can sort the greenhouse for the Summer. The grapevine is in need of its first prune too, which I can  also do once the bubble plastic is off

Needless to say, this is the major job here at home this week, with beds for Broad Beans, Peas, Squashes and Sweetcorn to prepare beinf a priority at the allotment... I think the guttering on the new shed will have to wait a bit longer, somehow!

There are also the three large Tomato plants my Son-in-Law gave me, which will soon need to be planted out in their space in the polytunnel, so another job there, getting it ready. My own Tomato plants are miniscule, so I thought i had plenty of time. His put mine to shame!!

Oh, and a plot friend who is going on holiday next weekend asked me to baby-sit her plants, and I thought they'd be best off in my tunnels rather than her windowsill at home, so there is space to find for those too, but not for long ....

Always a juggling act at this time in the year, with a permanent film of compost dust over the kitchen floor!! Worth it in the end though. Hope all your efforts are coming together now too. I shall be back next week, maybe sowing Okra if the weather stays warm!

 

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

9th May - Golly it is is warm!! Watering is first and foremost at the moment, and, from the forecast, for the next few weeks too. The water level in the pond at home had dropped by almost 15cm, so yesterday I got out the hosepipe to fill it again, and while I was there gave all the large pots a really good soak. April was incredibly dry, and so far, May is more of the same

A real sign of Summer this morning, as the first tranche of Swifts returning from their travels screamed their way through the sky, showing why they are called Devil BIrds. These ones were on their way North, but "our" birds will not be far behind for sure

Harvests are gradually increasing, both in volume and in variety, and Harvest Monday has lots to share this week

Radishes from the polytunnel, more Cherry Belles were crunchy and spicy, and some from the cloche joined them this week. Just lovely as snacks while I am working, or sliced in salad with dinner

Beetroot, also from the cloche, were gorgeous just roasted and sliced. These topped an Asparagus Rissoto.. the Asparagus is slowly but steadily continuing to produce spears, but I think by the end of next week I shall stop cutting them, so that all the further ones can grow to their full height and help build up the crowns for next year. 

There shoud be some continuity of Beetroot with some growing in the polytunnel and some direct sown outside, both round and cylindrical varieties

Also from that new cloche are more Spring Onions. This week I have been able to share bunches of these with several friends, and I realy do need to sow the next round to keep them available. They have lasted well standing in a jamjar of water in the fridge, good for using the green as a substitute for chives from time to time.

They were excellent in Cheesy Mashed Potato, with their spicy flavour, as well as sliced with Lettuce and Rocket in green salad

Leeks are still good enough to eat, although not for much longer, as the flower stalks are now growing in the rest of them. Very tasty nonetheless!

And a real surprise were these Carrots, left in the soil over the WInter, and escaped the attention of rodents: still good enough to eat

Out On The Plots This Week:

My time has been taken by the new shed, which, after a week's delay, was delivered to my plot on Wednesday mornng. Once I had taken the straps off, I sorted the pieces out and painted the panels that formed the back and right hand side, as I wasn't sure how much space there might be after construction, to wield a paintbrush without getting covered in paint

With a lot of help from friends and the trusty electric screwdriver over four days, it gradually took shape, and this morning I finished the rest of the painting

It was hard physical work, as the ground wasn't completely level and one corner needed packing underneath to enable the roof panels to fit without gaps, and th windows to fit in properly, although these were a bit of a squeeze 

The windows mean it is nice and light inside, even when the doors are closed, so at last I have somewhere to sit out of the weather again. It seems so long ago that the shelter was blown to pieces in a huge storm, and this shed will be well used for sure!

I chose the paint colour to help it blend in a bit, rather than stand out as a stark new addition, especially as it reaches out right to the edge of the concrete plinth. It seems to have worked! So now I can get on and fit guttering , re-site water butts and stack away the forest of canes and generally clear up properly again.  

Quite an exciting project this, and it will be great when the inside is completed too.. more photos then!

The Forage Forest is looking very pretty now, with plenty of flowers to enjoy, and plenty to cut for home too

This week we had some visitors on site: some of the team who organise the wifi aerials for this year's Reading Festival, carrying out a site survey using a drone. It was great seeing our site from  overhead  like that!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

I have another visitor, this time of the Avian variety: a hen Pheasant has nested in amongst that huge Rocket plant, and the way she is sitting  so tight all day, I think she has eggs under her. She sits absolutely motionless however close to her I am working. Before I realised she was there i narrowly missed stabbing her with the garden fork while I was prepping the soil to plant Sweetcorn plants

These are now at the other end of the tunnel, safely covered with a cloche so they do not become a Pheasant-snack

I think she will be sitting for another ten or eleven days, and I ma really looking forward to a clutch of little fluffy chicks

I have moved the next lot of Broad Bean and Pea plants from the greenhouse, the ones that will be planted outside once they are hardened off

There are Mangetout and Sugarsnap as well as maincrop Peas. I expect the plants to double in size during this coming week

The Broad Beans already growing in the tunnel are now in flower. I tied up the plants , so that they do not get weighed down as the pods develop, and these stay up off the ground

And the Curly Early Peas are also in flower. These look like tiny pink and purple Sweet Peas, very pretty. This is the variety I grew as a trial last year, which were delicious so I saved enough seed for a full crop this year

At Home This Week:

I have had new fish for both tanks, fourteen Corydoras and some X-Ray Tettras for the large tank, the one with the new LED lights, and some Cardinal Tetras for the smaller tank. I am collecting the new lights for this tomorrow and am really looking forward to seeing the colour of those Cardinals under LEDs

i shall need to carry out extra partial water changes for a couple of weeks to offset the extra bio-load of this number of  fish being added all at once, especially for the larger tank

The Chilli plants are potted on, buT still in the greenhouse to settle in to their larger pots before being hardened off to grow in the polytunnel

Jobs for the coming week, apart for shed-related tasks such as laying the internal flooring etc include

- sowing Spring Onions in module

- sowing the Runner and Other Climbing Beans in modules

- potting on the seedling Tomatoes, Squashes and Courgettes, and Brassicas

- taking the Cosmos, Blue Lace flowe and Honeywort plants to the polytunnel to begin hardening off

- prepping the bed for Broad Beans and Peas etc on #146

- prepping the bed for tall Brassicas and planting out the Brussells Sprout plants on #145

And if there is time I shall cut the hedge at home

I expect all growers are as busy as I am at this time in the year.. hope things go well for you all! It will be worth all the frantic work

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