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.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Bud Life.

I dare not go as far as to declare "bud burst!" but unless it is just wishful thinking or my eyes deceive me I think I can see a bit of colour and some fullness in the buds on the vines.
For weeks now, or even months, the first question I have been asked when greeted by fellow allotment holders is, "how are your vines?"

I have lost count of the number of times that I've given my pessimistic stock reply of  "I won't know until April but I'll be surprised if they have survived". Even now I cannot safely assume that a late frost won't kill them off but I must admit that I am now feeling more confident about the chances of getting some grapes this year than I have been at any time since early December when we had temperatures of minus 11c one week and minus 18c a few days later.

The other good news from the plot today is that the first asparagus shoots (purple jacmar) have started to push through.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Pigeons Beware!

Our local woodpigeons have been having a tasty feast all Winter at the expense of plot-holders on our allotments. These fat feathered pests sit in the tall trees over-looking the allotment site eyeing-up Winter greens on the plots below and planning their next banquet. As soon as your back is turned they flap their barely adequate wings and carry their enormous bloated guts down to ground level where they peck away, gorging themselves, on anything green that they come across as they waddle from one plot to the next. When disturbed they somehow manage to defy gravity and haul their huge stuffed undercarriages into the air and away to the trees. Artist and blogger Greg Becker of Plot 52 Blog sums up my feelings about pigeons on the allotment with his excellent sketches here:  Purple Sprouting  and here:  Winter Blues.

This weekend we had a treat of a meal at a very swanky posh restaurant. For my starter I had woodpigeon served with chorizo, spring onions and wild mushrooms. It was delicious. It tasted all the better for me knowing that there is now one less woodpigeon in the world. The restaurant was over 100 miles from the allotments so I very much doubt that my starter had been fattened up on my own purple sprouting broccoli but I would like to think that I have made a start and delivered a blow for allotment holders nationwide against the pest that is the woodpigeon.

So, woodpigeons beware, I have tasted your flesh and I liked it. If I catch you on my plot I'll have you in the pan before you can say "coo"!

Trespassers will be eaten.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Shaping up for year two.

I would have liked to have dug the plot over in February ready for sowing and planting over the next few months. I did try but really it was too wet. I prepared a bean bed which consisted of a couple of trenches lined with horse manure and then back filled with soil and home-made compost. I also created a small bed on part of last years potato patch into which I have put onion sets. Then it rained and in no time the bean bed had become a bean swamp and a moat had formed around the onion bed.

The area behind the greenhouse has been under water for a couple of months and is unusable for anything other than as a muddy allurement to my youngest daughter and her friends. My long term plan is to put a shed behind the greenhouse. This will need to go on a raised platform. A South-East Asian style shed on stilts might be more appropriate.  February was really a bit of a wash out. For much of the time digging was counter productive. I couldn't walk on the soil without sinking into it and compacting it. Wherever I walked I left a trail of muddy puddles rather than footprints.

March, however, has been much better. The bottom end of the plot is still quite soggy but over the last two weekends the plot has been transformed. It has been weeded and dug-over and the beds for this years crops have been marked out. At times this has meant cordoning-off the beds and then, so as to avoid walking on them and compacting the soil, working on hands and knees from outside the beds, reaching in to the beds to extract weeds and dig over the soil with a trowel before scattering a layer of well rotted horse manure on to the surface.

I have also tidied-up, weeded and manured the strawberry and asparagus beds, weeded the rhubarb bed and I have dug-over the pumpkin bed and buried a layer of rotting kitchen waste under it. I have sown a row of carrot seeds in a raised bed and put onion sets and garlic in one of the other raised beds. I think the whole plot is starting to take on a "ready for Spring" look rather than a "tired of Winter" appearance.

At the end of last year I asked my daughters if there was anything that I had not grown which they would like me to have a go at this year. Unanimously they suggested peas. I think they like the idea of being able to pick them and eat them straight from the pods when they visit the plot. So, new for this year, I have put in a row of Kelvedon Wonder peas and I will sow some more over the coming weeks. I have protected them from frost with a layer of fleece and I have used prunings from garden shrubs, which did not survive the winter frosts, as pea-sticks which will hopefully deter the local fat feral pigeon population from feasting on the peas before my daughters can get to them.

The rhubarb continues to push through and is starting to provide some welcome colour on the plot. All of last years crowns have survived the winter and I'm looking forward to my first rhubarb crumble of the year. I have not forced the rhubarb this year. I think the crowns are probably still too young to be forced but next year I will see if I can force an early crop.

My leeks, which have never looked anything other than pale, thin and pathetic, now suddenly seem to be greening up and thickening up. A few times I have been close to pulling them up and chucking them onto the compost heap but now they are more likely to end up on the dinner table in the next few weeks.

Out of 24 purple sprouting brocolli plants which were looking big strong and healthy in November only two of them have survived the arctic winter conditions and the daily banqueting of the pigeons. One of them has a few florets which I think will soon be ready for picking. I have transplanted the two survivors into a raised bed. I hope that after all they've been through this doesn't kill them off but I needed to move them so that I could prepare my potato bed ready for planting in early April.

I have found that one way to get the plot dug over without ruining the structure of the soil with my size 12 wellies is to make use of an eager light-weight volunteer.

I even managed to sit in the greenhouse, put my feet up and have a nice cuppa whilst my young apprentice got on with the digging. It was very relaxing....until she spotted me.