10. MAY

I usually grow broad beans every year, sow them in the middle of October and hope that the mice are not going to eat every single one. This year it worked, the plants grew well and overwintered fine. We didn’t have a hard winter so all was ready in March to get going. I had to prop the plants up, they grew quite tall and some of them flopped over. In the end they looked good, flowered well and only some of them got attacked by the dreaded blackfly. I pinched the soft tips and that helped. I was quite surprised today when I saw a lot of very nice pods. I like to pick the few early ones when they are quite small, the beans inside are just about visible. I use them whole, just chop them into small pieces and use them in my favourite soup – chunky vegetable one. Anything and everything goes in and I finish it with some Orzo pasta, serve with either my bread or a garlic baguette.

20220510_144249

I also grow climbing beans, these are still in the greenhouse starting to sprout. I have toyed with the idea of sowing them directly in the ground but again thought of the mice. There was room in the greenhouse in the back garden so I’m doing it this way.

The best surprise came in the evening, as I was thinking that I should move some of my large flower pots close to the pond, stand them on the edge so the heron wouldn’t be able to perch¬† there. The pots have got big hostas in and the one large pot I was hoping to move has one of my Himalayan lilies in. I didn’t know if it would flower this year, they only do it every few years. Last time I had a flower on it was in May 2018 ( I checked it in the blog). I was rather surprised to see two buds on stems so that will be an extra showpiece by the pond.

20220510_185217

The slugs like the leaves as much as they like hosta leaves so I’ll have to think of some protection.

WEEDS ?

Weeds are plants that are in the wrong place – I’m sure they think they’re just lovely. I have a continuous battle with them – but not everywhere on the plot. One part I was able to prepare for planting garlic just by hoeing, there were almost none there. Another one, like inside the fruit cage was a morning job, they were very stubborn and plentiful. I’m delighted to say that all is fine in that fruit cage.

When I first started working on my plot I had to do a lot of digging – it was overgrown and all the stuff I cleared I deposited at the very back. That was 12 years ago. Amazingly this bit of ground is in use now, I tried to clear it a couple of years ago and it certainly was well worth it. This year it was a home for some Borlotti beans and a few courgette plants, Zephyr.

20211021_120110

The soil here is amazing, rich and crumbly and this time forking it over was very easy, hardly any weeds and certainly no bindweed roots. I think I’ve cracked it.

Next to do was the little area close to my oldest greenhouse. It is right at the beginning of that plot and was always rather mixed. It has a line of blackberries and loganberries there, a couple of pear trees, an apple and a damson. The apple tree is a miniature, Elstar, but it had so many apples that I had to prop the branches up. The damson was only a thin stick given away years ago when I went with my son and his wife to an open day in their local garden. It even had a few damsons on this year but I didn’t do anything with them. I’ll wait till the harvest is bigger.

 

The first piece of land that I cleared after the harvest was under a number of bags of the reclaimed potting compost from the cannabis growing house and a large number of big flower pots. Once I managed to put the soil in some stronger bags and moved them next to the nearest greenhouse and stacked the pots there as well, I was able to sow my broad beans here. They germinated very well and I’m glad I protected them with some sweetcorn stems, just so the birds or squirrels wouldn’t be tempted to pull them out. I think it worked.20211022_153645

AUTUMN

Here we go again – another autumn, another clear out operation. My plan is quite simple – I aim to complete one task each time I go to the allotment. Yesterday it was clearing out one net cage and weeding (again) a bed after garlic has been harvested some time ago.

Today was the turn of the orchard. Managed to weed, hoe and re-do the stepping stone path in front of the shed, I’m happy with the result.

Another job I finished today was weeding and digging inside one small net cage. I had some broad beans there, they did very well, no sign of any blackfly, then I put some tomatoes and celery in. The tomatoes have finished, just the celery remains.

20201011_124417

Yesterday was quite difficult. I have decided to put a scaffolding plank as an edge to a narrow strip of soil beside this net cage, to keep the soil in, and making it deeper. I knew the planks are heavy, but I didn’t think they were this heavy! Too late to change my mind when I was half way down the main path dragging it behind me. Never mind, it all ended well.

PEAS AND BEANS

I am delighted with this harvest. It is just the start, there is plenty more to come.

I knew I had to protect my peas from the hungry pigeons so I planted them all in one of my net cages. Perfect result, all peas are mine!

The same case were the broad beans – this time it wasn’t the birds but black fly. All plants are very healthy and I have started picking. Both peas and beans are really tasty, you can’t get anything better than fresh vegetables, home grown. Get them as you need them.

RESCUED POLYTUNNEL

A couple of years we had a new guy on the allotment, young-ish, with a lovely wife and two children. We were pleased because our little community needed more people. He started well, clearing his plot and then one day he got a polytunnel. Quite a large one, 14 ft long, with a number of net windows on each side. He even got a group of his friends to put it up for him – he was standing and giving orders, they worked like Trojans! Next we knew he took the plastic cover off and just flung it into the tree at the end of his plot. He didn’t actually grow anything in it. And that was the last any of us saw of him.

Forward a few months – the above mentioned plastic cover was now scrunched up inside the metal structure, it was in the way of another guy’s work, as the wind blew it in his land. I decided to take matter into my hands, straightened it up, placed the zip entrance in the correct position and started pulling it over the frame. Of course, I chose a breezy day, I was in danger of being lifted up, cover and all. But after a few attempts I managed. I dug a little trench all around and buried the bottom of the cover, compressed it and even hammered in a few large pegs at intervals for extra security. It will be ideal for growing cucumbers.

That done I started planting the seedlings I brought from home. First of all some lettuce and broad beans, in one of my net tunnels. I did sow broad beans as usual in the autumn, they grew well and all of a sudden something ate them. Never mind, they can be started in the spring too.

Next came carlin peas. I started growing them a few years ago, not for eating fresh but for drying them – they are excellent in soups and stews. They are planted in my biggest net cage, all along the sides as they like to climb up. That way it will keep them protected from birds and they will cling to the net. I did it this way last year and it worked very well.

BROAD BEANS AND OTHER DELIGHTS

I have been trying to grow broad beans from the very first year I have been on the allotment. Either the pigeons ate the beans soon after I put them in the ground or they waited and ate the young plants. Every year I had some beans but nothing to boast about. Until now…

I was very lucky with the weather today – even though it has been raining since the morning I had a couple of hours’ window where I was able to go to the allotment and harvest these beauties, all 4 kilo of them. And there are plenty more. The reason for this success is the fact that I planted them in October inside one of my net tunnels. I wasn’t quite sure if it would work but it is obvious that it did.

In the same net tunnel I have Victorian climbing peas – I think I shall just grow those in the future. It not only looks good but they are much easier to pick.

And finally, the best of all were the strawberries. I didn’t expect so much but even in this deluge I brought home just over 1.5 kilo of them.

MAY ACTIVITIES

It is all go on the allotment now. Fortunately the weather has been good so far, so I was able to plant and build. I was also able to harvest some of my produce – lettuce, that has been going for some time and now some young broad beans. Never mind waiting for the pods to mature and then shell them – we like to pick the young pods and chop them whole and add to a salad. Delicious!

Last year was not good at all, the pigeons had a great time eating all my young plants, so this time I planted a lot in one of my net cages. I put them in the ground in October, they grew well and continued to do well in the spring. As they started flowering I was wondering if I will get any beans, seeing that they were under cover. I didn’t have to worry, they are producing lovely pods and I don’t have to share them with pigeons.

It seems I have to cover quite a lot – lettuce for example. I did have a poly tunnel some years ago but the plastic started breaking. The structure was sound so with a bit of help from Mike we covered it in green netting and it works a treat. I even managed to build raised beds in there.

20190525_181332

Strawberries were the next thing to cover – I have got a number of raised beds, just to make it easier to put the net over them. It pays off, I harvested my first two sweet strawberries yesterday.

20190525_123141

Every year I try to grow something new. This year it is water melon. I have got three plants, all inside a greenhouse and one of them is showing signs of wanting to start climbing. Keep fingers crossed! I’d be happy with just one melon.

20190525_183208

It is not just vegetables that are doing well – my beautiful rose and clematis are a delight.

I did a count of my tomato plants – I think this year will be a bumper year, I have 80! It may seem a lot but they are all different varieties – Costoluto Fiorentino, Long Tom, Super Marmande, Ailsa Craig, Czech Bush, just to name a few! I didn’t have this many last year and I still use the last few I bottled. They freeze well, cooked of course. A win-win situation.

SUNNY DAY

I was reading my notes from last year, trying to see how behind I am with my planting. The result? At least two weeks. Never mind, my activity on Wednesday and today (18th and 20th April) almost caught up with last year.

One more plot finished, of course the same goes for this one as for the first one – the net cages are empty but the greenhouse in the back garden is filling up with seedlings that I will start transplanting as soon as the weather stabilises.

There are parsnips, strawberries, broad beans, globe artichokes, garlic and potatoes on this plot and one pear tree and two apple trees. The fig tree in front of the shed is doing well and my plan is to plant some more rooted cuttings of the fig there as well thus creating a little orchard. Who would have guessed that I would be able to grow and harvest figs!

BROAD BEANS

Last October I did what I usually do that time of year – decided to sow one long bed of broad beans. They started growing well, got to a certain size and then the pigeons noticed them. The wretched birds just stripped them completely bare, only little twigs remained in the ground. I know I should have protected them but I never needed to do that in the past.

Never mind, I had loads of beans left so I started them in little individual cells, they grew well and I had them standing in the veranda for the past two weeks, just to get them used to the weather.

Today was the day to plant them out on the allotment.

Everything could have been done quickly, the soil was just right but then I had to construct some kind of a cage to drape the net over.

One lot of the beans is planted in one of my raised beds so that was much easier. Never mind, all is done so now I can hope for good weather and plentiful harvest later.

UNDER A BLANKET

I was looking at my seed collection and grew more and more frustrated. It is all fine to see that parsnips could be sown from February onwards. Well, that would have been rather difficult as the weather was against me.

Never mind, yesterday was a lovely sunny day so I made sure the piece of ground where the parsnips are going to grow is weed – free (quite a challenge, they seem to grow at the rate of knots!) and covered it with a piece of horticultural fleece. I’m sure it will worm the soil and I shall be able to sow one of my favourite vegetables.

20180325_165723

20180326_112348

That done I turned my attention to the greenhouse. There are raised beds on both sides and a small one at the back. I added some more soil from my composter bins and now they are ready. Fortunately I have a large plastic cloche to cover one of the beds so I planted some lettuce seedlings there. That way we can have some early Icebergs.

20180325_165741

Last but not least I prepared another small raised bed that is beside the greenhouse, put a bag of old horse muck in and covered it with a thick layer of good soil, this is now ready for one pumpkin. I have high hopes for my latest acquisition, seeds from a Maltese pumpkin. I’ve seen them in Malta, now the challenge is to grow them as big as they were there.

In the past few years I had four raised beds with strawberries but one in particular is getting a bit old, they didn’t produce very much fruit. I have decided to dig them out, used some of the best runners to fill gaps in other strawberry beds and this one is now ready to be planted with broad beans. I have started them in the greenhouse in the back garden. They will be sheltered in this bed, I can plant them there a bit earlier.

20180325_170150