I don’t think I have quite got the hang of this blogging lark… I see it’s been several weeks since my last post (and I’ve been writing this one for two weeks!). Although in my defence, I seem to have mostly been digging out weeds. Couch grass, (night)marestail and bindweed by the bucket load. Not a scintillating subject to write or indeed read about.
But, after weeks and weeks of being down on my hands and knees, enduring strange looks from fellow plot holders (who would probably have just used weed killer rather than take my labour intensive but organic approach) I have made huge progress and am pleased to report that I now have an area approximately 6m x 4m ready to plant! Before and after shots:
Actually, I fib very slightly. I have already planted some potatoes. Despite my suspicions that the entire plot had been used to grow potatoes, I did find a small area which appeared to be relatively tuber free. (When vegetable gardening, it’s important to rotate the crops from one area to another in order to avoid the build up of pests and diseases in the soil, and also so that the soil does not become depleted in nutrients – different veg use different things and leave different things behind.) So although I was about two weeks behind everyone else, I managed to plant my first earlies at the end of March, and my second earlies a week or two later when I’d cleared a bit more ground. I have also planted the autumn fruiting raspberries I was gifted (although I fear that I’ve killed the ones which I took home).
It was so dry though, that I wasn’t sure they would actually grow. But sure enough. the first earlies are definitely growing, as a few leaves popped up after about 2-3 weeks, only to be blackened by the late frosts we had I didn’t have time to buy some fleece and protect them, as my neighbour did, but as hers (which are much more advanced than mine) were also nipped by frost, I am not sure that it would have made much difference. They seem be recovering though. And I still have some main crop potatoes to plant, which are extremely late going in. Better late than never though! The variety of the earlies is a bit of a mystery – I think they are Pentland Javelin. My local garden centre lets you fill a bag – but there aren’t any labels available to attach to the bag so you know what you’ve got… and I couldn’t remember by the time I’d got them home. I had a “the bag with the knot in it is…” aide memoire on my phone for the second earlies (Nadine) and the main crop (Valour). I am debating whether to grow potatoes next year though – they do take up a lot of space, and are relatively cheap and easy to buy. Although I may just go for a few earlies, as the flavour and freshness will be so much better than any I can buy in a shop.
Much to my surprise DH wasn’t that fussed when I suggested not growing potatoes, despite viewing them as a major food group. I sometimes think he would eat nothing else, if given the chance. I was asked for recipe recommendations since we had a glut – however, I have to confess that we mostly just ate them boiled, mashed or roasted. DH did do his speciality once, which is gnocchi. It’s lovely, but rather messy to make – basically very smoothly mashed potato, rolled in flour and then lightly cooked and served with the sort of sauce you might use with pasta. It also freezes well. Good comfort food.
Talking of DH, he has been down the plot to help occasionally. Although when I asked what he thought of the bed I’d prepared, I don’t think he had quite the right idea…
I have mentioned the no dig method of gardening previously, and that I planned to cover part of the plot in fresh manure and cardboard. Well that plan has been amended, thanks to my lovely neighbour who told me about the holy grail of mulches – free well-rotted manure! So one Friday I took a drive out to where he’d told me I could find it – but clearly I didn’t listen properly, as I ended up in the wrong place. A week or two later I saw him again, and this time I managed to find the farm/livery stables (and have also realised that there are several all within a short distance of each other – clearly I live in an area big on riding). I never thought I’d say this – but heaven!
Fresh manure is acidic, so has to be left for a year or two to rot down. This stuff has been sitting there for a year or two already, so is ready for immediate use. Some things could be planted straight into it, or I could use it as a mulch for the potatoes and other plants. There is a small problem though – I only have a little Fiesta! I made two trips, and managed to bring back about 8 or 9 sacks of it (enough to do about one eighth of the front of the plot). Fortunately, my aging father has a sizeable car and doesn’t mind his daughter dragooning him into filling it with rotted horse poo. So we had a family trip there on Saturday (and probably any other that he visits unless it’s very wet), and now I have one third of the end of the plot covered. Another three or four trips should finish that area, and then I can start on the other areas…
Do you ever get stuck doing something and are not sure how to start doing something else? I’ve spent so long digging out weeds, it seems to be automatic to do more weeding every time I go to the plot. Although I now have a fair sized area to start growing in, I seem to be hesitant. Admittedly, working out the layout is giving me quite a headache. How many plants per centimetre, how tall will they grow, how far apart do the rows need to be? I am probably overthinking it all.
I do have plenty to plant though. I’ve also been busy at home sowing seeds, potting them up and hardening them off. Many seeds need a bit of warmth to germinate, and then like to be coddled for a bit longer whilst they start to grow – although too much warmth and insufficient light can make them “leggy” (tall and spindly looking). I have plenty of brassicas (cabbage, kale, kalettes – which are cross between sprouts and kale – and two types of broccoli), which are almost ready to plant out. However, I need to get them some protection first, as otherwise they will be attacked by pigeons and cabbage white butterflies. I also have lettuces and tomatoes, both of which will be grown at home (they need lots of watering and tlc, plus they are best picked and eaten immediately). I have flowers too – cosmos and sweet peas mainly. Although I don’t have a greenhouse, I am lucky that we have a very sheltered area in the back garden which has a roof and is mostly enclosed on three sides. This has protected my seedlings from the late frosts we’ve been getting. Some things need to be planted later, so about 10 days ago I started off some courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, peas, runner beans, sunflowers and sweetcorn. All are popping up nicely as you can see below. Some are ready to be moved to bigger pot, some need a bit longer in their nursery pots, although some are already getting a bit “leggy”. (These pictures were actually taken a couple of weeks ago – everything is a lot bigger now!)
I am still busy weeding though – the runner beans have put on a sprint so I am hoping to get them planted this bank holiday weekend, the space is almost cleared. Then I need to get something to protect those brassicas, and I will have a proper allotment with things actually growing in it. Till next time!