Monday, March 26, 2007

Ready to go

I've done it! Well I've done the first one anyway. So next weekend it'll be out with the trowel and in with the maincrop potatoes, one row of Pink Fir Apple and one row of Maris Piper.
I should say a big thankyou to Sandra in Whitchurch-on-Thames for the donation of the timber to complete the first bed and enable me to build the second.
My attention will be diverted to my parents-in-law allotment to get the bed for the second early pototoes dug and manured. With a large quantity of manure now available I can also get my first earlies in at home using the same trench method as I used last year - I may even take a couple of photos for inclusion here this year.

In addition to completing the "potato" bed I've also finished the kids beds, using wire to lay in their planting grid. I've had to usurp some space as my onions, which I'd put in cell tray when the sets stated sprouting in February, have started out growing their cells. I'm not sure where I'm going to put the rest yet as they were due for bed 3 on the allotment which I doubt will get dug now until late Summer. As it is I've had to make space for the shallots next to the garlic at home and put them in, even though it is a little late.

After a number of questions on growing veg in pots and containers on various forums I subscribe to I was going to include something in this entry but I didn't have time to take the photo's I need. I'll try and get around to it on Friday and make a post accordingly.

Lastly I should record the state of the sowings in the greenhouse. I managed to pot on all the melon seedling and most of the cucumbers. All are currently in bottle propagators because of the low overnight temperatures. I'm not sure if this is what has done for the Bella, or whether some bug thing has done for them. In both cases their stems just above the surface of the compost have gone thin and the tops have wilted. I'll have to see if I've got any more seed and resow.
I've also got germination of the Alicante, at least enough for my needs, and nearly enough of the peppers. The pot sown onions have all germinated badly where as the ones sown in the bed have germinated really well. The pot sown leeks have also done ok but not as well as I'd expected. The Greyhound have also germinated but the peas are still doing badly with no new seedlings appearing. I'm sure I sowed something else but can't remember what - perhaps I should reread my last couple of posts.

Till Friday then...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

One down - well almost

I had hoped to get the first bed finished this afternoon, well at least the digging but it was not to be. Between my son and wife going down with flu, and my mother-in-law breaking her hand my plan got somewhat disrupted.
Things started well on Friday with the car passing its MOT leaving me free to spend 3 hours digging in the afternoon. By the time I finished I had about 9 feet of the bed left to go. The two hour slot Saturday morning turned into nearly 3 and I cleared 6 feet by half the bed width. The rubber ground tiles the council donated by dumping them at the allotment, and which now adorn portions of most plots, were actually working against me preventing the ground from drying, so I moved them over to where the next bed will be and went home for lunch.
I managed another couple of hours in the afternoon, running the 3 feet section left through to its complete length. I then managed another 4 feet by 18" strip before my back, the fading light, and the cold wind got to me. Tomorrow I thought I'd finish digging.
With my wife dashing off to look after her handicapped sister whilst my father-in-law took my mother-in-law to the hospital, I decided to trundle down to the workshop and assemble a few more bed sections. The last of the fly-tipped fencing I'd reclaimed, along with the 4"x4" post provided enough material for another 4 sections and the bed end.
After my wife returned I loaded the bits into the car and headed allotment wise. I decided the first task would be to get the first two bed sections into place, a task that was rudely interrupted by a squally sleet shower. Shower over I set the sections in place and then turned my attention to the end section. I moved part of the extraneous soil from where the path at the end is going to be, then set about digging out enough of the remaining strip to allow me to clear the rest. I cleared about 4 feet, enough to allow me to get the bed end in place. And there I finished. Hopefully if the weather is not atrocious during the week and the soil doesn't get too wet I'll be able to finish the digging next weekend. Not sure what I'm going to do about timber for the sides yet though.
On other fronts there's not much to report. I've sown another 6 bins with carrots, 2 with Autumn King, 2 with Parano, and 2 with the last of my heritage 'Blanche a Collet vert Hors Terre'. If all goes to plan, I'm going to try and over winter one of these in the green house and collect the seed next year. The only other news is that one or tow of the Alicante and Peppers are showing signs of germination, along with a large number of the Musselburgh leeks.
That's it for this week. Catch you next time.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Other Events

Nothing survives contact with reality like a plan. Anyway, I did make it down to the plot to take those photos I promised. I'll start with the subject of yesterdays post and the growing pile of mixed roots and grass. If it keeps growing at its current rate I'll need to clear it before I can even start constructing the third bed.

The other photo is really a progress update. Because I didn't make it down to the plot until after 5pm I took the photos before I installed the second section of bed, which you can see in the mid-ground of the photo. Having installed the section I took the opportunity to level the bed, rather than having to try and do it at the end. By my calculations I'm now halfway through digging, and will require another two timber sections per side to complete the bed.

And now onto the subject of the title, a quick roundup of other things. The carrots sown in bins a month ago are now about and inch high, as are the ones sown in the greenhouse bed two weeks ago. The latter are from seed I saved a couple of years ago and just goes to prove that you can store carrot seed. I'll keep you updated and may take some photos once they get a little bigger.
Of the seeds sown in the propogator, virtually all of the cucumber and melon have germinated but I've yet to see anything from either the peppers or tomatoe.
Of the seed sown in pots using bottle propagators, I've a reasonable germination of the Tumbler, and signs of some germination of the onions. Of the seed sown in the guttering, there is as yet no signs of germination, neither is there from the seed sown under my home made cloche - I think the latter may be due to my soils' ability to shed water why dry rather than anything else.
On other fronts I've sown the first of my potaotes in bins, sowing one with Maris Bard, and the other with some Anya I saved from last years crop. I also took the opportunity to empty out the bins that my blight stricken Christmas crop in, only to discover lots of nice healthy potatoes. Amongst these were a sufficient number of edible size to provide us with potatoes for two meals.
I've also sown the first of this years greyhound crop, my first batch of sweet peas, and picked the last of last seasons sprouts. With a bit of luck I shall be picking a decent amount of Purple Sprouting this coming weekend.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And the weed pile gets bigger

All things considered its been a good weekend. I had hoped to do more but the affects of this weeks flu bout sent me scurrying back to bed after an hour and a half on Saturday. I decided to take a little easier on Sunday, aiming to do two two hour stints, with a 2 hour lunch break in between. Things turned out a little differently.
The progress I'd made on Saturday meant I'd enough of the plot dug to be able to start constructing the first of the three main beds. Assembling the end, and two sides at home, I loaded the pieces into the Landy, along with the timber strip for the plot edge, and headed down the plot.
I set the edge strip in place, then set the end, driving it into place. I'd made a jig yesterday to enable me to set the spacing and height without having to keep measuring it. I placed the first side and began driving it home, only to find the center post hitting stones. Thankfully I'd brought a trowel with me and a quick poke about enabled me to set it in place. I then realised I hadn't brought a long straight edge with me so that I could set the other side level. A quick scout about and I located a metal post that would do the trick. The second side went in much easier, but then it was on the run of where the Globe Artichoke roots had been - they are a real pig to get out , some have been over 2.5ft deep and the top end of the plot is riddled with them. I'm not sure which is worse them or the couch (twitch).
After a quick chat with Pippa, who had assistance on had to construct her raised bed frames for her, I returned to a little digging managing another 2ft before returning home for lunch.
An hour and a half later I returned to the plot. I'd barely started when the first of the two Sarah's arrived, I'm not sure if one's a Sara as opposed to a Sarah, so I'll use the latter for the time being. Its amazing how much quicker digging goes when you've got someone to talk to, and before I knew it I'd got a strip 3ft wide by 6ft long dug. The first Sarah left at about this point and the other Sarah's husband turned up. I did a little more digging before wandering over for a chat, after enquiring if they wanted any rhubarb or Globe Artichokes, neither of which feature in my crop plan. They gratefully accepted the latter. By the time we'd finished talking there was a noticable chill in the air and the sun had disappeared behind the houses. Time to push on.
Anyway, my two hour afternoon slot had turned into nearly three but I've now got half of the first bed dug. As I've got the day off tomorrow, principally to get the car MOT tested, I hope to get down in the afternoon, and this time take the camera with me, so you can see some photos of my progress.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Some Progress

When the sun came out on Thursday, and it failed to rain Tursday night and Friday I had a vague hope of getting a reasonable amount of digging done on Saturday, the the waether as usual had other ideas and chucked it down Friday night. So it was with little zeal I made it doen to the plot on Saturday afternoon.
My first job was to unload the 850l of last years leaf fall I had collected that morning from the Landrover into a builders bag. The collection of this had come about as a part of the conversation I'd had with Linda when I'd collected the 4 pallets she'd offered on freecycle ( a fortnight ago. She had a large pile of leaves she wanted shot of and I had a use for them.
Anyway leaves unloaded, and two of my fellow plot holders greeted, I stuck the spade in at the bottom of the plot, to continue the bed I'd started last week. It was a little squelchy but I dediced to give diggin a shot, after all you never know how wet the grounds going to be until you turn the first sod. Well it was pretty bad, far worse than last week. I did about a foot before giving up and trying my luck at the top end of the plot.
The soil up here was much drier, aleast dry enough to make digging a reasonable option. It also seems that this bit of the plot has been better tended as the couch here was not a thick, or maybe thats down to what ever crop had been grown here. As digging progressed I began to wonder what I was dealing with. What ever it is it has deep thick roots. My first reaction was that it was horseradish but now I'm not so sure. I'd ruled out asparagus and a conversation with my father-in-law confirmed this. As I dug out a couple of smallish clumps of rhubarb from the same area it has to be capable of competing, and my current suspiscion is that its globe artichokes; from what I know of Sea Kale I don't think this is what I'm dealing with. I'm sure I shall find out as the season progresses and those roots I haven't yet dug up produce some leaves. Anyway I managed to get just under 3ft of my 6ft wide bed dug before fading light and an aching back sent me homeward.
Whislt Today dawned dry, the forecast was not good, and the exhaust on the beast needed some attention. By the time I'd finished it was raining again so I headed for the greenhouse. After beign 80 in there on Friday and 82 yesterday it was a might chilly in there today, so I retreated inside to retrieve my fleece.
Insulated against the chill I returned to sow my greenhouse crops for this year in my new propogator. After last years problems germinating the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and melons I'd made the decision to get an electric propogator this year, and had treated myself at Christmas to a Super7; effectively a heated window box tray with 7 6"x2" mini seed trays with vented lids. Each mini-tray comfortably accomodates 6-8 seeds which is more than sufficient for my needs, when I only require 2 or 4 of a given plant. So with 7 tray I set about sowing. In tray 1 went the Allicante. In tray 2 went my 2 remaining Bella ( I thought I had more), and 3 Perpinex. In tray 3 went 6 market more - why do you get a dozen or so outdoor cucumber seeds per packet but on 4 F1 greenhouse types?. In tray 4 went a dozen world beater, what was left in the packet. In tray 5 went 6 Sweetheart (cantelope melon), and in tray 6 went 6 Early sweet - another melon variety. Since I only had 2 Bella I sowed the remaining two Prima Top in tray 7, incase the Bella don't germinate. now I have to wait and see if the investment was worth while.
With the current warming trend I also decided to push some other crops along. I've sown a rootrainers worth of Early Onwards, and assuming these germinate ok I'll sow another tray in 3 weeks time. I also decided to experiment with sowing parsnips and scorzonera in guttering, after all it can't be any worse than last years diasterous first outdoor sowing. Retrieving the guttering I'd stock piled when I changed it on the house a few years ago I cut it into 3ft lengths, filled with compost, and sowed 2 with White gem and the other with scorzonera. These were then placed on the raised bed in the greenhouse.
Taking the remaining seed and a packet of Early Nantes, I made my way out to the polycloche I'd made about a month ago, which has been sitting over a section of the veg bed since its construction. Lifting it off the bed revealed nice dry soil - so its obviously been doing its job. I sowed one row of parsnips down one edge and 1 row of scorzonera down the other with two rows of Nantes between. I'm hoping I'll be able to pull the carrots before the Scorzonera and Parsnips swamp them, and then get another row of late carrots, or possibly leeks between them. Watering well I replaced the cloche and retreated back to the greenhouse.
With the light beginning to fade filled 6 6" pots and made a liberal sowing of leeks - this is the first batch I've grown from seed; usually I buy them as seedlings from Dobies. These too I transfered to the raised bed and then covered them with a sheet of glass.
I'm away next weekend so the sweet peas are going to have to wait until I return. I'm hoping the weather is going to be a little better as felling chestnuts in the rain isn't going to be fun.