Plot Notes

A personal journal, open for the world to read, recording the progress of a novice allotmenteer on his allotment.

Weed it and reap.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Mystery Seeds

I wasn't going to bother with carrots but the consensus of local knowledge is that carrots will do really well on our site. I received a free packet of Royal Chantenay carrots from the BBC Dig In project and another packet (Nantes Frubund) came free with a magazine which my wife bought and so I have decided to give them a go.

I had been put off by tales of carrot fly and so I have taken some precautions. The first line of defence is the wall of one of the large raised beds in which I have sown the seeds. By all accounts carrot fly is not a high flying pest. If they manage to scale the walls they will find a repellent screen of onions and marigolds which will hopefully be enough to deter them.

Before opening the BBC seeds my only experience of carrot seeds was the magazine seeds which I had sown a few minutes earlier. As I tapped a few Royal Chantenay seeds into my hand I noticed that some of them looked nothing like any other carrot seed I had seen in the previous 10 minutes or indeed in my entire life. As I have said before, I am no expert but some of the seeds were little dark balls which, in my very limited experience resembled onion or maybe leek seeds. Another of them was a larger light brown ball. I have seen something similar before; I think it was a flower seed but can't remember which, possibly marigold or nasturtium (see photo above).

I have sown these odd seeds in the carrot rows and I will have to wait and see what develops, if anything. The chances are that I'll be unable to identify them in any event even after they have sprouted, blossomed, flowered, fruited or vegged or done whatever they decide to do.

It has occurred to me that perhaps the seed company has deliberately included a few carrot fly repellent seeds in with the carrots. Are the seed companies really that sophisticated? I think it is more likely to have been a packaging cock-up, but, as I keep saying I'm no expert.

Other news on the plot is that the pop bottle cloches over the vines worked wonders and now all 10 have started to bud. The first few of my first early potatoes are also pushing through. Things are really taking shape now.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bud Burst!

Apologies for the lack of recent updates. I have had a very busy couple of weeks. I have changed my job and returned my laptop to my previous employer and I now find that I am well down the pecking order when it comes to the use of other computers at home. The last two weekends have been taken up largely with family celebrations and parties for my daughter's birthday and my parents-in-law's golden wedding anniversary.

I have however still managed to fit in a few hours work down on the plot and today I am having my own private celebration to mark Bud Burst. Eight out of my ten Rondo vines now have buds growing through the wax coatings. I have put pop-bottle cloches over the other two vines and hope to see buds on them soon.

The other significant news is that the contractor installed my three large raised beds last Thursday. This weekend I have transplanted onions, spring onions, calabrese, broccoli, and brussels sprouts from the coldframe and into the raised beds. I have also planted a couple of rows of onion sets, red and yellow, along with some solent wight garlic into one of the beds. I had bought two garlic bulbs but unfortunately found that one of them had started to rot when I came to plant it. The garlic and onion sets have been hanging around in my garage for a few months awaiting the arrival of the raised beds and ideally should have been planted a long while ago. I have also now planted rhubarb and asparagus into two of the smaller raised beds.

Finally, I am pleased to report that the greenhouse frame is still standing. I have aquired some eight foot lengths of treated timber (8inches by 2 inches) from which I will construct a base-frame for the greenhouse. I plan to incorporate a couple of raised beds into the base-frame inside the greenhouse. Once the greenhouse has been securely fixed to the base I can start to think about glazing it. At home I have tomatoes and chillies which are itching to be moved into a greenhouse. Small flowers are appearing on the chilli plants which I assume is a good sign but I could be wrong.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Bed Time

As promised in my previous blog entry (and as requested by Nina) here are a couple of photos of the vines which I planted on Good Friday. I have planted 9 Rondo vines on the allotment and I have another one to grow against a South facing garden wall at home. The vines have been imported from Germany by Winegrowers Supplies of Somerset and have come with their own plant passport which I am told I must retain. I don't know why; perhaps the vines are planning a trip abroad. The vines are grafted onto rootstock and are coated in wax. When the buds grow they will burst through the wax coating (hopefully).

The third photograph shows the three small raised beds which I have made. There are strawberries in the middle one and the others are awaiting rhubarb and asparagus.

The good news today is that the contractor has made a start on constructing the large raised beds on the site. There are about 90 beds to be built. He seems to have made some good progress today and the weather forecast for the rest of the week appears ok and so I am optimistic that by the weekend I will have three large raised beds in which to plant my onions and garlic. I should also be able to transplant a few items from my desparately overcrowded coldframe and get cracking with some direct sowing of the various seeds for the numerous varieties of salad leaf which I seem to have accumulated.

I spent yesterday afternoon disentagling the greenhouse which resembled a large christmas cracker wire puzzle. I am pleased to report that it has gone back together quite nicely. After replacing the previously loose-fitting nuts with new ones and hammering out a few kinks in the aluminium struts it seems to be significantly less flimsy than it was the first time I put it up. Once I have anchored it down to a firm base I will set about glazing it. I have not yet decided upon the best type of base to construct for my needs but my initial thoughts are that I will need to raise the height of the greenhouse by a good few inches to reduce the risk of me smashing my head through the glazed roof; I am tall and quite clumsy.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Rhubarb rhubarb!

Last week I noticed some tasty looking rhubarb stalks appearing on a few allotment plots which reminded me that the three crowns of Timperley Early Rhubarb which I had ordered from Kings in January, for delivery in March, had not arrived and so were now Timperley Late.

I 'phoned Kings. They apologised for overlooking my rhubarb order and promised to dispatch it straight away. At the weekend a parcel of funny looking rhubarb arrived from Kings. I am not a botanist but I examined the evidence and concluded that the specimens they had sent to me were in fact 12 strawberry plants (Cambridge Favourite Variety) and not rhubarb.  I reached this conclusion after reading the leaflet which arrived with the parcel which gave instructions for planting and care of strawberries. The plants were also held together with a tag which was labelled "Cambridge Favourite Strawberry".

After the Bank Holiday weekend I 'phoned Kings again. They apologised for the cock-up and told me to keep the strawberry plants. They will arrange for their wholesaler to send some rhubarb out to me as soon as possible. I have rushed home from work each night this week eager to see if the rhubarb has arrived. Unfortunately the only rhubarb which has been delivered to me has been in the form of letters, leaflets and news-letters from the local parliamentary general election candidates.

I did a bit of work on the plot over the Easter weekend. The vines were planted on Good Friday. I will post some photos when I get a minute. I have also built three small raised beds, one of which now accommodates 12 strawberry plants. The other two small beds will be for rhubarb and asparagus (or possibly pumpkins). I am still waiting for the contractor to construct the three large raised beds which were promised weeks ago and I have not yet set about seeing what can be salvaged from the tangled mess which was previously my greenhouse frame.