Tuesday 31 March 2009

Problem solved!!!

Crop updates, wildlife developments

The ducks were not there tonight, so it seems the problem is solved! Hoorai! Now I can concentrate on the other troublesome species - the rat!
I have started tackling the leftover manure to make a raised bed: I was planning it for potatoes but I had an idea and - since the manure is not full of stones and the bed will be raised from soil level - I could add some sand and use it for carrots, which do not grow well in heavy soils with stones.

By the way, I would suggest you never leave a load of manure uncovered: it is taking ages to clean it up from all the weeds that have grown over one year - nettles first in the list, wit vast, branching roots and green, fresh leaves!

In the greenhouse, the sunflowers have germinated, and I was surprised to see fleshy leaves emerging from the bed where I planted salad. I thought it might be mint, but then I realised it's the potatoes, the chitted leftovers I found in the shed last winter. How unexpected, I had forgotten about them!

Outside, the spinach is out: I had to put my face at the level of the ground to notice, it's so small!

It's so good to be able to relax at the allotment after work!

Monday 30 March 2009

Problem solved?

Crop updates, wildlife developments, competition on the allotments

Did I tell you my boss was a pretty incredible woman? Well, last week she came in the office with something else for me, and that seems to have solved my duck problem: green netting, with small holes, the perfect size! I put it on the pond and, after a little bit of incentive to leave yesterday, they did not seem to have been back :D

That and the fact that British Summer Time is back and I can go to the allotment in the evening after work is cause for rejoicing: EVVIVA!

Tonight I planted a chilli that does not seem to be recorded in my database: I was disappointed to find so very few seeds in the packet, but hopefully they will work out. However, the chilli pyramid I planted a while ago has not come out yet. It might be that so far I have only watered the trays once a week, in the weekend, which is very little indeed: if seeds germinated and then dried out, all the peppers, tomatoes and aubergines planted so far may be lost.

That sounds like a pretty appalling failure rate: "would I mind more if I had bought fewer seeds?" I asked myself while coming home, after noticing that my neighbour is seriously and frightfully 'professional'... Over the winter he has digged all his half plot, sifted the soil of stones to grow carrot, laid out perfect looking beds and built some impressive polytunnels... luckily I do not feel inclined to get competitive, but I have heard that that things can get really tough with some passionate gardeners!!!

More than anything else I enjoy pottering about and mucking in - which by now you should know I mean quite literally! Tonight I found myself singing aloud: isn't that great? That happens very rarely to me... So any edible results are a bonus, I guess.

Crop-wise, I still have to plant my extraterrestrial potatoes, or in fact any other potatoes. I counted 16 plants of broad beans Aquadulce (overwintering) which is few, especially after the rain of last week, but the Express ones I planted this spring seem to be more successful. I will wait a little bit more then have to consider topping up.

In the greenhose, chamomile, having already put out its cotyledons, is now producing tiny leaves, and the minuscule celery seems to have survived so far. Oenothera also looks as if it is coming out.

I am still picking leeks from last year: a full bed to go - leeks is most definitely worth to overwinter, easy to grow from seed and reliable.

This year I will try cauliflower again: given that last year it was a disaster, with no apparent germination, I will try planting seeds in trays rather than in the ground and - as a backup - I have bought some plants of the following, exotic-sounding:

  • Cheddar (orange)
  • Emeraude (green)
  • Nessie (white)
  • Graffiti (purple)
  • Gitano (Romanesco)
The opium poppies seed I scattered at the back of the shed have come out, while daffodils around the pond and shed look battered (unlike the ones in front of the greenhouse - in the picture above, with guardian sheep in the background).

There is sign of rat activity... however, my trap is still there, empty.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Extraterrestrial potatoes

Some crop thoughts.

This week it has been raining and next week it's BST: the perfect situation, it would seem.

I am so keen to go and see whether the spinach is out, and more broadbeans.

Last year's potatoes, the ones I did not eat - I must say out of laziness because cleaning them was such a hassle: they were so muddy and eaten through by slugs -have all chitted, and chitted beautifully (they look very much like fascinating extraterrestrial creatures!), so I would like to plant them again... unfortunately you may recollect I did not record whether they were earlies, maincrop etc so I will have to try my luck. Experimental gardening ;p

Did I say that I also experimented with old onions, the ones that put out leaves: I have tried to plant them to see if they make new onions or do just flower, which would not be bad either.
I am at home now and the sun is coming out: I should probably go and water the seedlings in the greenhouse sometimes this afternoon - feel sleepy and have a lot to study, though.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Happy birthday to me...

Crop updates, wildlife and manure.

All week I have been thinking that - although I do not mind the ducks and did not see any damage done last year - they might annoy someone else on the site. Punctual as death the question came today: did you see the ducks on your plot? They occasionally nibble on young growth...

There were three in fact, and they start to be a few too many all considered. And although surely any nibbling from the ducks is nothing compared to the devastation made by pigeons, rats and slugs, I have spent all my time at the allotment fencing off the pond and covering it with netting so that ducks cannot access it but frogs can. I would not want to receive a letter asking me to earth up the pond after all the work that went into it.

As the ducks came back, the fencing seemed to work: they looked questioningly around and then at each other without attempting any breaking in, before I shooshed them away again - btw, they flew to the other end of the site, where they used to stand in the puddles of water that collected on plastic sheeting. As the neighbour remarked: not very smart animals, you would think the canal and streams in town would make them more than happy. I agree.

On the subject of living creatures, I have put a rat trap in the greenhouse (with butter and blue cheese rind as bait) as planned. Perfect timing as I had the unfortunate experience of seeing rats running around behind the shed in broad daylight today, and I am pretty sure I heard a neighbour also scream at a "6 inches" rat. It must be spring. If I catch anything, then the trick will be how to kill without blood. Could drown it in the pond :/

Speaking of vegetables, seedlings are starting to appear:
  • celery (what shall I do with it? they are tiny and I am afraid they will die down in a while)
  • sweet pea
  • rapa bianca
  • salad

I uncovered the herbs patch, and all of them were ok except one. Very few broadbeans were out though: I will have to see if they come out next week, given that it should rain, otherwise I need to top up with new seeds. Onions are starting to put leaves out but no sight of asparagus yet. Two artichokes seem to have survived but I am afraid the vines are really dead. Daffodils are out and lovely green leaves are starting to appear on gooseberries, including the cuttings. Rhubarb has mad enormous buds and two leaves.

I have started the major task of spreading the remaining manure at the bottom of the allotment to level the ground which is now sunken. Someone had dumped rubbish underneath it...

Not my best day at the allotment, especially for a birthday.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Guess who's back?

Crop updates, wildlife, the weather and wise advice.

All enthusiastic after a whole afternoon at the allotment on a sunny day I come home and call my auntie. "You shouldn't have planted anything today, the moon is waning", says she, reading from the well-known Italian calendar of Frate Indovino (the "Guessing Monk").

Anyway, I will keep an eye on the seeds and see whether they are any slower to grow because of the waning moon... I think that is also what biodynamic gardeners believe, but what can I do? I have just so many weekends and it is already mid-March!

The seeds in question, which may be slow to grow, are in fact quite a few, as March is possibly the month with more seeds to plant and I am playing catch up already! Here is my list:
  • Sunflower Irish Eyes (which I plan to use as a screen at the bottom of the plot)
  • Spinach Palco, Organic
  • Spinach beet
  • Agretti
  • Chilli Pyramid, hot (the Hot Mexican I planted this time last month are not out, maybe the seed from last year has gone bad)
  • Calendula Candyman Yellow
  • Nasturtium Black Velvet (apparently you can eat the flowers in a salad!)
  • Onion Corrado
  • (some shallots from last year which had sprouted in my kitchen, no idea what will happen to them: will they make more shallots as if they were a set?)

But I digress... guess who's back? I arrived at the allotment this afternoon and was welcomed by my very own couple of resident mallards! They are back and I am very happy: I think they eat slugs although they may nibble on veg (no damage last year that I could see, though, but I have put netting around the spinach bed just in case). At all events, the mere presence of wildlife on my patch - with the notable exception of gastropods and pigeons - makes me feel good as if I had created a healthy place for them to be. BTW, they must be the same that came over last summer - I hope this year they will be wiser and won't make any eggs on the ground to be eaten by rats...

... talking of which I am preparing to attack: collecting smelly food to place a trap after they have been sitting on my seedtrays, eating snails (as much as I like the snail thus to disappear...).

Today I have also replaced the covering sheet underneath the strawberries, as last year's was all worn and just in case it hosted any pests or bacteria. However, this raised some etical issues, as that must be synthetic material and I threw away plenty of it. In any case, that material was on my allotment when I got it, so I did not buy it on purpose. In the future I should probably use straw instead to cover the ground and keep the strawberries clean from splashes, but where do you buy straw? I have to have a look around.

Celery has germinated and so has one sweet pea inside the greenhouse. They have joined the salad and rapa bianca's seedlings.

I was a bit sad that my new cloche was literallly blown to bits by the wind, that carried it across the plot despite my heavy anchoring. However, it was so hot today that it is difficult to believe the cold weather may be back again... On this wishful note I am going to sleep, as tomorrow's Monday again!

Monday 9 March 2009

The broadbeans are out!

Crop updates

The other weekend I went very quickly to the allotment and the broadbeans were out!