HARVESTING

It it the busiest time of the growing year. The soft fruit is ready, strawberries are almost over, blueberries will start shortly and raspberries are plentiful. That’s just the fruit, I haven’t mentioned the vegetables – cucumbers, peas, spinach lettuce and this year I have managed a lovely crop of basil in my greenhouse at home. Never mind pesto, tomatoes and basil is a combination made in heaven.

SOFT FRUIT

About two years after starting on the allotment I treated myself to a fruit cage. It wasn’t cheap but it is well worth every pound. I have rearranged the bushes there during late autumn and winter and it is much better now, enough space around each bush.

I have got a number of blueberries, gooseberries, black currant, and my favourite, red and white currants. Today I picked some of them, the white ones are delicious on our porridge in the morning.

TOMATOES

I knew I was going to have different tomatoes but I didn’t realise that they’ll be so different. I thought they were called Cherokee purple but these are even darker than purple. I’m sure they’ll taste great, looking forward to harvesting them

Talking of harvesting – the strawberry harvest is quite amazing this year. I’ve made two lots of jam, we have them on our porridge in the morning and the little smiler next door gets a box almost every day – his favourite birthday food.

PEAT-FREE GROWING

I’m well aware of the current trend of peat-free growing. I use Dalefoot compost

I have been using it for a few years and I’m very happy with it. They have improved it by adding comfrey to it, there is a range of different kinds, depending what you want to use it for – seed propagation, potting up and, best of all, tomato compost. My tomato plants are the proof of that.

The compost is a bit more expensive than the usual product you get in a garden centre but it is well worth the cost.

TREE BUMBLEBEES

We have three bird nesting boxes on one of our trees in the back garden. Two of them are quite old but the best one is a new one, it was a Christmas present a couple of years ago. We had blue tits nesting there last year – it must have been a very comfortable experience for them as I have a bundle of wool insulation from a food pack hanging underneath it.

I was looking out for them again this year but nothing was happening. One day, however, I noticed what looked like big flies crawling around the opening. To my surprise, after a few days, it developed into a large crowd of  bee-like creatures.

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There are quite a few of them there, the whole box must be packed with them. It is fascinating to watch them. I got more information about them, the tree bumblebees are very interesting.

VISITORS

Today’s forecast was correct-cold, windy and rain, heavy at times. I had to go to the allotment as I wanted to get some more rhubarb. I was looking for some other ways to use it and found a recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam. I have got enough rhubarb and the only other ingredients were vanilla pods, sugar and lemon juice. Found all of them so the afternoon will be spent making this jam.

When I arrived on the allotment I was in for a big surprise – a swarm of bees! I’ve never seen one at close quarters so this was quite amazing to watch – like a living creature, constantly moving, shifting.

I guessed where they came from – over the hedge Mary and Wayne have hives, it took just a short phone call and Wayne came all dressed in his protective gear to collect them. Even though he didn’t manage to collect them all, he said that the others will find their way home. It was rather fortunate that they settled on a couple of raspberry canes, right beside one of my paths, he was able to cut the canes down and just shake the bees into his special box. Very interesting to watch.

Amazing.

WOODCHIP…

….is a wonderful material. It is a by-product that would have to be disposed of. We are lucky on our allotment site to know a tree surgeon who is only too pleased to give us a truckload or two to improve our paths. Yesterday was the day, it was our second load and there will be another one to come today. We are even told what tree it was that we have on our paths – on Monday it was ash and yesterday we had lime.

It makes life so much easier, there is no mud on the paths and it keeps down all the weeds. Of course it needs repairs as we walk on it but we decided we can manage to do it every two years. The good thing is we can ask at any time in between if we need an emergency repair.

MAINTENANCE

Even bad weather is useful for an gardener. It is still very cold for this time of year but I had to go to the allotment to check on the seedlings I moved to the greenhouses there. All is fine, even the cucumber seedlings are doing well, they germinated only the other day.

I try to do one improvement each day I am there, today was the turn of the large compost heap at the end of one of my plots. Usually I put compostable things into the composter bins, this heap is for the end of season waste – after harvesting potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages etc. It was sitting there the whole winter under a cosy cover – a carpet offcut.

I wanted to mend the retaining framework so the carpet was taken down, the Brussel sprout stalks thrown out and the rest dug over and heaped better. I was amazed how crumbly and brown it looked.

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All I had to do now to water it thoroughly and cover again with the carpet. It will sit there until the autumn, I will then rake out all the good soil, either bag it or use it on the plot and start the whole process all over again. My plan is to improve the soil in the strawberry raised beds – that will be quite a lot of work but worth it. I will select the strongest runners and gradually replace the plants in the newly filled beds.

SOME MORE RECYCLING

Quite a few years ago I started making flower pots out of newspapers – using a jam jar as a mould they were just the right size for transplanting my seedlings. The advantage was that they rotted in the soil when I transferred the plants out into the open soil.

This is a step further. I have started growing my sunflowers for our annual Johnson sunflower competition. They started well, I put them into little pots and they did even better there. Now I needed to put them into something even bigger – but what?

I have been saving the brown paper than some mailing companies fill their boxes with – just because I hate throwing things away, it might come handy.

Today was the day. I used a tall vase as a mould because I needed something bigger than a jar and with straight sides. It is just perfect, I have used most of the paper and the plants look fine. I’ll keep them in the greenhouse for quite a while and when all danger of frost is gone they’ll go out. Last year I managed 11ft and 11inches, my hope is for that one inch more!

ON THE MOVE

I started my seedlings in the propagator in the back bedroom, then moved them to the greenhouse in the back garden and now moved them again, this time to one of the greenhouses on the allotment.