Tuesday 30 December 2008

Digging in feathery company

Crop updates, winter maintenance

Before today's frost I managed to go to the allotment twice over the holidays. Not much to report, really, apart from a small act of vandalism in which someone went into the greenhouse to smoke and drink, displaced the vent and threw a few things around. Luckily they did not damage anything, otherwise I would be furious. Instead, I am only baffled by how can people be so lightly irrespectful of someone else's property and work. Anyway...

In the greenhouse, the salad has sprouted: in a month or so it should be ready to transplant outside. No sign of mushrooms, though.

Outside, I have been digging here and there - I am currently clearing the wild flower meadow around the pond - in preparation for planting. The weather has been really pleasant, with a very pale sun but mild temperature. And at this time of the year there is often a curious robin around, keeping an anxious eye on what is happening and in search of an easy catch of surfaced earthworms.

Today I transferred all my potatoes and onions - which I had previously stored in cardboard boxes - to the appropriate sacks (hessian and plastic net respectively). I must say they had kept reasonably well, although a couple of potatoes have chitted and a few onions have rotted: I have learned that I should not leave the hard neck in the onion, it seemed to be the source of the rotting. I seem to have tons of tiny potatoes from last year to plant next year: where will I find room for them?

Which reminds me that I still have to complete and publish my plan for next year...

Sunday 21 December 2008

The season for planting soft fruits

Crop updates, planting soft fruis.

Yesterday was a great morning at the allotment!

I had been there last week but the weather was not too good, so I barely enjoyed planting the raspberries in thick heavy mud that made work ten times as hard as it should, with florid weeds coming out at every spadeful. As you will have noticed, I did not even feel like writing about it. If I have to look at the bright side, though, I must say that I found very rewarding to dig out all the abandoned berry plants on the left boundary path. Soft fruits are quite invasive, and these plants (which I should not complain too much about as they fed me through the summer) were definitely overgrowing, but my neighbours were not bothered as they do not use the path so I offered to do it myself. I divided up the uprooted plants between my neighbour and me, and I have to find a less obnoxious place for them to thrive next year.

Yesterday morning the weather was just fine and warm: it has been so mild of late that there were buttercups flowering (not that that makes me particularly happy, as creeping buttercups are one of the worst weeds in the allotment, so I welcomed their efforts by weeding out a wheelbarrow-full)!

A dozen of new strawberries (Florence, the ones the last year produced more) had arrived during the week, so I planted them and managed to find room for a couple of the raspberries I digged out last week.

One of the gooseberries cuttings I planted a couple of weeks ago has pushed out a tiny leaf, and salad is also sprouting in the greenhouse, although there is no sign whatsoever of mushroom. Phacelia is doing terribly well, next year I will plant more to keep the soil from being washed of nutrients over the winter. Parsley is doing well also, although in a less vigorous way. Rhubarb's fat buds are emerging, a rich pink in colour: I must remember to feed with manure later on. The blueberry I planted earlier this autumn has a lots of buds, despite the soil not being acidic at all in the allotment: this is something to be monitored.

Potatoes for the new year have arrived during the week as well: they are now stored in my shed, where they should chit (although for some reason they seem to chit better in my kitchen larder).

I was tempted to go back again in the afternoon, but I have my garden at home to fix as well, so I decided to to stay and take care of that: how could I dare say I am a keen gardener when my garden at home looks like a wasteland...

Thursday 11 December 2008

Another beautiful winter day

Crop updates

On Saturday I went to the allotment again... as my work is getting busier and busier, and the weekdays are so full, I have almost forgotten what I did!!! But I remember having a very good time.

I heard that I would not get my autumn onions after all, because the supplier made a mistake in the ordering process so they were lined up for autumn 2009 instead of autumn 2008 (funny mistake...) but I was too tired to get angry.

There was no sign of any mushrooms, I planted some Winter Gem lettuce in the greenhouse: when the seedlings are strong enough I plan to move them to my fleece tent outside - no major damage for the wind, so it should be fine.
I also got cuttings from redcurrant and gooseberry to transplant (branches actually root if they touch the ground), which made me feel as I had actually achieved something. :)

Today I received some more raspberries, red (Autumn Bliss) and yellow (Allgold) varieties, which means I have my weekend work laid out for me!!! It feels good as soft fruit have been a satisfactory crop, so I am quite excited about getting more. Weather is going to be awful, though...

Saturday 6 December 2008

Winter growing arrangements

Crop updates, doubts on mushrooms, protecting winter crops

Last weekend I had a quick go at planting some Meteor peas: I seem to be late again on the planting schedule. Last year I had a few free weekdays so I am now realising that having only weekends is making it very difficult to keep a steady pace. Anyway, we will see what happens with the peas and I have also put in last year's leftover onions.

The layer of newspaper over the mushrooms spawn in the greenhouse had dried out over the week, so I made sure to give it a proper soak, and today I will check if anything has happened beneath it at all. I was so excited about growing mushrooms, but last night an expert gardener told me that they are a nuisance because once they grow they spread all over the place: this has somewhat shaken my enthusiasm, and I am not sure how I feel about them now. Being in the greenhouse, the spread should be limited but I would not want my greenhouse to be taken over either. Still, I quite like mushrooms...

I am feeling slightly drained today, emotionally drained I mean, last week being quite an exciting one workwise, so gardening is a must this weekend and I am so happy that today is a sunny day!
Besides, I have to plant winter lettuce before the winter is over: I am quite keen to get some decent crops despite the season.

As I thought a covered bed might help in achieving this, last Sunday I tested my engineering skills on building a fleece tent on a small bed. Ready-made fleece tunnels looked a bit difficult to work under, so my idea was to have fixed walls and be able to access the bed easily from the top.

The result is a bit clunky - I wanted to finish as soon as possible while the ground was still relatively warm (temperatures dropped in the last few days), so as to create a microclimate conducive to growth. I will have to refine my tent as I go along, but I still hope it will work out in the end and for now I look forward to seeing if it has resisted the wind so far!

P.S. By the way both the gratin and the pumpkin pie were delicious in the end! I did follow the recipe only loosely, though, as is my style... In the gratin I only used cheese, strong cheddar: no cream and no potatoes and in the pie I used cream instead of evaporated milk (was not quite sure what that was anyway).