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.

AT LAST

This is the last baby blanket for this year – the weather is getting better, the days are longer and my allotment needs all my free time. I have used up all the baby wool that I ordered at the start of the first lockdown.

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It is a perfect pattern and I have made a lot of these blankets. I will start again in November or so….

ANOTHER PIECE OF LAND

I was catching up with some more digging yesterday afternoon and today. It was the right kind of weather, especially today, it turned rather cold and grey, just as the forecast predicted.

This piece of land was used to be in my care a few years ago but I gave it up when somebody in charge of adults with health problems expressed interest. I thought it a great idea but it never took off. My friend on the site took it on but this year said that her own plot was enough work for her and didn’t want to carry on. So it came back to me.

As I enjoy digging it was not difficult. It is all done and this way I can grow many more pumpkins and squashes because all the other land is already earmarked for other things. It would have been the case to fit them in wherever there was a bit of room.

The soil is lovely, the larger part of it was covered with tarpaulin and we kept some woodchip on it. All that was gone now and it will be back in production. I can’t wait to see all my huge Maltese pumpkins growing there.

POTATOES

The weather has greatly improved today and the forecast is even better for tomorrow; I decided to plant the potatoes. This year I’m just using my own, I chitted quite a lot of them. Not sure why but our potatoes are all gone, normally we manage to last from one harvest to another. Not this year, I shall have to buy some later. 

The ground was ready, I just had to get the furrows ready. One half of the job was done in the morning, then home for lunch and bake the sourdough loaf that was rising in the kitchen and after that back to the allotment to finish the job.

I’m delighted to say that all the potatoes are in the ground, I have nine rows this year. That should give me a decent harvest.