The 2007 gardening year

16Th December. Well today we picked a few lettuce, a celery, a few leeks, some calabrese, spring onions and beetroot. Yesterday it was a few peppers and a good handful of Iranian Red Chilies. Next time there’ll be winter cabbage and red sprouts and there are still some potatoes Pink Fir Apples.

Yesterday the jobs were tidy up, weed and compost two of the long beds; clear the remaining nasturiums; clear the Cosmos and Zinnias (and compost that bed); cut back the Sedum, taking cuttings for another garden and then water the Polyanths. In the other garden I planted the Sedum, the Globe Artichokes and some Montbretia I had lifted about four weeks ago.
I still haven’t solved the problem of the greenhouse door and as a result it’s very cold in there.

25th November. Go away for a few days and guess what, the frost killed our nasturtiums and african marigolds; and the last courgette.
We’re back from Cyprus, a superb holiday, and this morning we picked or dug up: lettuce, peppers, potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, beetroot, calabrese and a few raspberries.
The broad beans I put in about ten days ago are through (and now netted) and the winter onions and lettuces are well started.
So what’s next? Possibly a 1m high netting windbreak east/west along the whole length of the plot; clear and prepare the courgette bed (SKs) and the peppers bed (SGl); order the beans for next year; repair the door to the greenhouse; repair the tension and struts holding up the fruit cage netting; stake the new row of raspberries; get some seaweed for the compost bins; plant out the Globe Artichokes; stake the new row of raspberries.

3rd November. All the bean beds are ready, composted, chicken pellets, and covered with membrane. Thirty bags of mushroom compost arrived on Tuesday, I used sixteen today.

Seven I’ve kept for the greenhouse for when beds or parts of beds are clear. Also there are probably three outdoor beds still with viable peppers and lettuces, waiting to be done. For the moment I’ve made a south-facing wall with the remaining seven bags so now I need something to sow in front of the wall.
Talking about peppers, this year we’ve finally had a successful crop… and they’re still coming. Big Bananas, Joe’s Long, Buran, Lemon Drop, excellent.
Leeks, Jaune de Poirot, have pretty well completely recovered and we still have probably forty left, even afater the ones we’re eating. (these are the ones that need to be eaten before the first frost!!)
We have harvested the first Calabrese; potatoes are still being dug; beetroot are now growing fast enough that the weight of them in the ground stays constant, they grow enough in one week to replace what we dug up; had the first of the new batch of carrots today;
The over-wintering onions and lettuce are starting to come through. Planted the broad beans last week. Picked half a pound of raspberries today, together with the leeks, peppers and lettuce.
It’s all Monty Don’s fault he said ‘Try to pick something from the allotment everyday.”

14th October 2007 The winter crops needed attention, so we forked over one of the long beds and planted red onion sets – in four or five rows alternating with rows of Winter Density lettuce.
One of the small bean beds got the compost treatment and has now been covered up until spring. Topped up the high bed under the south facing wall of the shed with compost and then planted out some lettuce plants – we’ll see how they get on.
I ripped out some very tired and tatty Michaelmous Daisies and was going to through them out to the Council tip when I realised I could put them to good use in, what will be the Courgette compost bin. This is a spare compost bin which I need to fill with stuff so that next year I can use it for Courgette / Squash. It already had some  garden materials so I’ve added the blighted potatoes. With these Michaelmous Daisies and also a couple of bags of Mushroom Compost it’s getting pretty full.
When I was out and about I also got some wallflowers so these are along the side of the pergola area.
Finally we also gave the treatment and planted out a small bed of white onion sets.

7th October. We picked the last beans today, we’ve stripped the beds and tidied up the bamboo canes to keep them for next year. The peppers and squash in the greenhouse are going well.

The brassicas are coming along nicely, the Louviers cabbage have started becoming pointy, the red sprouts are hardening up the calabrese have started to heart up. Some of the leeks are recovering from leek moth and rust (the others have been ‘outed’.)

Some little fellow has nibbled all the winter lettuce, so I’ll need to re-sow.

Next job is to sow the onion sets, the garlic and the broad beans… and the replacement winter lettuce!

1st September 2007 It’s been miserable and cold recently except for the last few days. I had  a chance therefore to think about next year and indeed have ordered the garlic etc for over-wintering.Meantime we have been collecting beans, probably 50lbs so far, plus cucumbers and other salad stuff. We’re battling over the Coco Rose beans, by mistake I planted the with the pole beans rather than the dwarves so they’ve been suffering. The ones that have come good are a marvellous colour, a full-blooded red shell, they look wonderful. So I want all the beans for re-sowing next year whereas ‘she who shall be obeyed’ has other ideas!!The other most exciting plant this year has been the Blue Banana squash, four harvested and possibly another six to come. Golden hubbards only one harvested though there may be another six. Butternut squash still very slow to start so we’ll see. The surprise act has been the Yellow Banana squash as we didn’t sow any. One of the Blues must be a Yellow, anyway I think there’ll be three or four of them, we’ll have to see.Courgettes have started fruiting again and now we’re seeing three or four different types of cucumber. Today was spent tidying up and weeding; getting beds ready for Broad Beans, onions, garlic, winter lettuce,
The windowsill has started filling up, we have our first dish of seeds drying, Tondo Di Piacenza courgette, well worth the space in the garden. Guests say it has more flavour than the standard ones and of course the shape is fun – normally called hand grenades the latest ones landmines.

10th August 2007 Squashes, WOW, last year I grew some Early Golden Hubbard squashes (as well as Butternut squashes) and we’ve just eaten the last one. (As you can tell they keep well!) We saved the biggest until last. It probably weighed in at four or five lbs.

A wonderful orange colour, this squash had pride of place in the fruit basket on the coffee table.

It’s place has now been taken by our first Blue Banana squash, it’s about 16″ long, about five to six inches in diameter along most of its length and weighs in at nearly six lbs. WOW.

Apparently it also stores well and when you eventually start it, you keep it in the fridge and cut slices off it as and when you want.

That one squash was all that grew on the one plant in the greenhouse. We have two other Blue Banana plants in the squash bed in the middle of the plot.These two have about ten to twelve squashes growing on them, babies at the moment. Also in the squash bed are six Butternut squashes and three Early Golden Hubbard. (We’ve had to stake and set wires for the vines to clamber over, so that they get some breathing space.)

If you want some fun next year, get some squashes, we’ve never seen anything as rampant. Great flowers very similar to courgettes. Great architecture for the dinner table, serve roasted and stuffed with meat and fresh vegetables.

23rd July 2007 Well you can’t win them all, first potatoe blight on three out of four beds, now we’ve been attacked by Tomato Blight. I think they’re related. We need to look much more carefully at blight-resistance next year, meantime we’ll get some fungicide and try to protect the plants that haven’t succumbed yet. Beans still going well as are courgettes, even the cucumbers are having a go now.
140707 Time for a situation report. Harvesting courgettes, normal ones plus Tondo de Piacenza (round), and yellow courgettes – brilliant. They’re now about to start their second flush.
squashes have started, there’s a wonderful Early Golden Hubbard squash and our first Blue Banana squash,
potatoes got blight, but earlier ones were beautiful, jury out still for the rest
dwarf beans from the greenhouse are good,

over-wintered onions and garlics have been excellent, I’m delighted they won’t store and have to be eaten now.
mangetout peas rubbish as usual, and we had about a dozen pods of petit pois which were absolutely lovely
Continuous cropping of lettuces of various types plus spring onions
cucurbits (all of them) are pretty sad, so far,
strawberries have been very good, raspberries good,
summer onions just about ready to dig and to dry off,
Soft fruits really are next year (our third year) though I have pegged down some Strawberry runners for a strawberry cone for next year
outdoor beans (dwarf and pole) have just about started and all the tomatoes are about to start, peppers are further behind schedule, (where has the summer got to?)
AND we’ve started the autumn / winter:– yellow Jaune De Poitou leeks are looking excellent (100) (before the first frost)
– blue leeks now looking significantly better (30) (after the first frost)
– red sprouts have far too much growth and leaf
– Spring cabbage seeds sown today
– Winter cabbage seeds sown today
– calabrese seeds sown today
– summer salads – lettuce, spring onions, radish and beetroot sown today.
– onions planted out in the greenhouse (to see how they get on)
Delighted to be giving away parsley plants and coriander plants.29th May, Planted out the Caro Rich tomatoes, all of the pole and runner beans, except the Barlotto are through. Some cucumbers are planted out, but more available in pots. Same with squashes. Cropped the greenhouse potatoes, beautiful, and the winter onions in copious quantities.

13th May,
Tempus fugit, we’ve plenty of tomatoes, peppers, and leeks coming along. The runner beans and pole beans are planted out or sown in situ. Planted out the cucumbers today. We’re a bit short of squashes so I sowed some more yesterday and we haven’t sown the Dwarf French Beans yet. We’ve started cropping the winter onions.

16th April popped over for an hour to sow tomato seeds, just in case. Tomate de Colgar, Galina, Grushovka, Latah, Plum Lemon, Sungella,gardener’s Delight, Black Russian, plus Big Banana Pepper.

15th April. Wonderful hot day today, first time this year that I’ve used the awning under the pergola.
Learned yesterday that my supply chain has suffered a major interruption in service and that I shall have to bring back in-house the out-sourced seed germination.
It was not total as the Courgettes plants will be delivered on Wednesday, but tomatoes may be four weeks late and squashes and cucumbers are non-existent.
Today therefore was catch up day, design and build a large cloche (3m X 1.3m,) sow numerous seeds in numerous pots in numerous trays, and the original job for today, build the cucumber bed….. all done.

Seeds sown today:
Courgette Tondo Di Piacenza
Straightneck yellow courgette
Cornichon Fin de Meaux
Lemon Apple cucumber
Miniature White Cucumber
Maascara Lettuce
Canasta Lettuce
Little Gem Cos Lettuce
Pablo Lettuce
Blue Banana Squash
Butternut squash
Early Golden hubbard squash
Lemon Drop pepper
Purple Sprouts
Flat-leaved parsley

Next we need to sow some tomatoes in case this fails as well. Hey Ho.9th April, What a fabulous Easter weekend. Finished the digging for a neighbour, so I can now relax and not feel guilty when I was working on my own allotment. Sowed beans galore in the greenhouse, plus some Cherry Piccante Peppers, Curly Parsley and Blue Banana squashes. I must quote “We use it in risottos because the flesh doesn’t breakdown when cooked. Also very nice cubed and roasted with herbs, garlic and olive  oil.”

Harvesting Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Rhubarb, plus a few new potatoes from the compost heap. Wonderful!!

1st April. Aren’t we lucky having a garden or allotment to work on. A bit cold first thing but warmed up continuously during the day, turning into a lovely sunny afternoon.

Written off the peppers etc that got killed when the greenhouse itself suffered terminal damage, so replaced today with short rows of seeds – Leeks and Squashes, plus some Cupidon bush beans. Planted out the Italian onions grown from seed.

Sowed the summer onion sets some white and 2Xsome reds and covered them with fleece (first time I’ve used fleece.) I noticed that last year I sowed them at the end of February rather than March. Also cleared a bed ready for something else, possibly leeks or courgettes..

Apparently we’re in for a beautiful spell of weather during the week so I watered the onions and potatoes. First watering of the year.

Broad beans not doing well. Red currants have some purple curled leaf, so pinched it all(?) off. Plum and damson coming into flower, so another gale, then fruit will set and then we get a frost; betcha!!

Picked rhubarb and broccoli. Great.
18th March The new greenhouse had been damaged in a recent gale, so the first job was to repair this by adding new struts to support the main roof. I used stiff plastic water piping to get the curve of the roof plus metal rods to give a vertical wall up from the ground. I’ll use the excess piping for polytunnel cloches. Picked the Purple Sprouting Broccoli for the first time this week, so much of it that we’ve had to freeze most of it.

18TH February, turned the greenhouse inside out and it’s fine now. Planted a few spuds (Maris Bard) in the greenhouse and sowed Winter Density and Canasta lettuces plus some Short top forcing radishes also in the greenhouse. Moved the blackberry to its permanent home.

17th February, finally I got to put the cover on the new greenhouse frame and sorted out the beds inside. Shame I put the cover on inside out!! Set up a composter at the main house ready for the comfrey, weeds, shredded paper etc. More daffodils are flowering, flowering currant has its first flowers,

28th January. Out on the plot today, and lost the thread

So I was clearing a bed ready for the new greenhouse and collected some old spring onions. At lunchtime I returned home for a snack and I had ryvita and humus. Naturally I dipped the spring onion in the humus and was stunned when it turned out to be garlic and not only the first one but also the second, a little one, which just had to be onion……. So I’ll be free of colds this winter.But what a lovely day to be working on the allotment. Removed the torn fabric from the plastic greenhouse, weeded all the beds, removed the artichokes and winter radishes.

It’s great shame. The jerusalem artichokes and winter radishes have produced a lovely big crop and we just don’t like them. The good news is that this means we now have an extra bed free for this summer.

First daffodils are in flower. Spring has sprung, Hooray.

17th January – I may have bought a new greenhouse, the potatoes have arrived, the radishes are showing in the greenhouse, now the year has started…. except that there’s a gale blowing. Anyway it was not a good day for planting ‘roots’. So I didn’t plant any.

2005, What’s this allotmenting all about then

What’s this allotmenting all about then

The strands of change that came together and resulted in me getting an allotment were:

– giving up smoking, therefore the increasing the risk of putting on weight and therefore I needed to find another physical activity preferably outdoor

– taking up the GI Diet, Glycaemic Index, and finding out that there are a lot of beautiful vegetables out there, possibly because my taste buds are working better after non-smoking for six months

– moving to a house with a smaller garden, without the opportunity of growing any vegetables at all

– working from home and therefore having a need for a change of environment (and getting out of the house, getting out from underneath my wife’s feet)

So looking back over the last nine months, how has my attitude to changed, mellowed, matured, ripened, developed?

At first I was appalled at the amount of digging that would be needed to get it under control and then to keep it under control. But as it was early August 2005 the first job was to clear an area and get something growing.

We chose Dwarf French Beans and for fun we planted some two Courgettes for some immediate crops and also planted over-wintering onions, garlic and lettuce. I had heard the phrase ‘Raised Beds’ and we both thought this would be a great idea. Simultaneously I discovered permeable membrane so as each bed was dug I covered it with the membrane until we wanted to use it.

I acquired compost, manure, ripe manure randomly over the year and applied as I could whenever I ha dthe opportunity.

Suddenly I was confident that I could control it.

This meant that I had more time to think about sub-plots and ideas. I had painted the South-facing wall of the shed but now I put in a Victorian Hot Bed in front of it. Got that done and I had time to think out and get a polythene greenhouse and embed it into the ground.

As it was ‘off-plan’ I was able to build two permanent beds 3.5m long into it and I set these up as Hot Beds as well. For this summer we’re using it to extend the cropping season for tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers.

So we are ‘live’

Crop failures are a fault of:

– the weather
– the soil temperature or the air temperature
– the wind speed
– the chemistry in the ground
– the labelling on the packet
– the friability of the soil
– the appetites of the other living creatures who need to be fed
– my incompetence, standing on the plant, ripping it out because I thought it was a weed
– bad luck
– humidity and precipitation
– germination rates
– planting the seeds or bulbs upside down
– foxes
– snails

SUCCESS on the other hand is solely due to my brilliance as a gardener, a likely story!!

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