CARLIN PEAS

They can also be called black peas or heritage peas. I have discovered them a few years ago and, as my motto it, try anything once, I grew them. Of course I forgot that the pigeons who frequent our site are a greedy lot, was late covering them and just managed to save a few pods. Things improved with time and this year I think the harvest was the best ever.

I decided to grow them in one of my net cages, they were protected from birds and I was able to support the row that grew beside the net. They are not heavy, they attach themselves to the net but are easily removable when dry. In a few words – I’m happy with the harvest.

WINTER

I don’t much care for snow and all that – getting on a bit, but I was never very sporty, even as a young girl. I was glad I took the top net off from the fruit cage. I went to the allotment on Monday, it was a lovely crisp day, blue skies and a fair layer of snow. I have got a number of net cages there as well, I wanted to make sure I knock the snow off those.

I did that but as I was coming out of the last net cage I managed to trip and fall –  face first into a strawberry bed with a deep snow cover. Just as well I don’t have a photo – the glasses did most of the damage, they were quite out of shape but not broken. My nose was fine – I tweaked it to check for any fractures and all was well.

It didn’t really bleed but the bruises started to form and now I look like a panda. Just as well we are under lockdown, by the time we’ll be able to go out I’ll look reasonable again.

This is the view from my back door – it did look lovely, like a thick layer of icing sugar everywhere. It didn’t last long though.

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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.

WEEDS

We had a little drop of rain last night, just enough to soften the surface of the soil. It didn’t penetrate deep at all but was just enough to make the weeding a bit easier. Today was the turn of the brassica cage. I have a number of purple sprouting broccoli, kohlrabi, red cabbages and curly kale there and a lot of weeds. Amazing that they grew so well as  May was extremely dry. It was a job for the whole morning.

A few hours and a stiff back later it looked much better.

It is a pity I can’t make any use of the bucket of weeds…

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And after all the work I sprinkled a good amount of my feeding mix – fish, blood and bone and chicken manure pellets all around the plants. As I am writing this the long-awaited rain came so it should all soak in. Another net cage to weed tomorrow, and another the day after…..

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.

DIFFICULT TIMES

After worrying about not being able to go to the allotment I’m happy now. As part of the new regime us oldies – anybody over 70 – I can go to the allotment every day and keep my distance of two metres from the next gardener, that would be my one exercise per day. I live only about five minutes away from the site, never meet anybody on my way and when I’m there, I am very often the only one. I have no underlying health issues so, if the situation stays the same, I’ll be fine. My sanity will be preserved.

I was there today working in the last net cage, getting rid of the weeds and putting down some of that fragrant wood chip. Beautiful, and very useful – it stops the weeds growing and the path doesn’t get slippery. Win win.

A few days ago, again before the new way of surviving started, one of my friends told me about a pile of some black sacks with some large black flowerpots that were dumped in the new car park close to the old Charterhouse nearby. It is just behind our boundary fence and Frank managed to heave a couple of them over. I emptied the pots, saved the compost, gave the pots to my friends and started planning the next step. The following day I took the wheelbarrow to the car park and in three goes brought all the sacks – all 12 of them – to my back garden. An amazing haul – about 25 pots and three big sacks of very rich compost. I have also discovered that it was used for growing cannabis – the root balls were still in the soil. We shall draw a veil over the origin, it was my gain and I did put it to very good use.

As I wasn’t then quite sure if I would be able to work on the ‘farm’ I decided to hedge my bets. I filled on of my large grow bags with the new compost, placed it on a little table, put it in the veranda and a large tray with four of those pots beside it. The plan is to grow as many of tomatoes, peppers and chilies as I can, I am sure we are going to live through some difficult times.

18. MARCH

We had another delivery of wood chip yesterday, my friendly tree surgeon has left a truck load of eucalyptus and pine chippings by the allotment front gate. I was hoping for that – after this weekend life will be much more complicated for us oldies. I shall use the proviso – do some exercise or walk, keep away from others – and continue gardening on the farm but shoveling wood chip is another matter. The aroma from the heap was quite medicinal.

The progression of one path renewal. It will make life much easier, no need to cut the grass.

As I had a new supply, I was able to use it on the little paths in one greenhouse and in the net tunnel. I’m very happy with the result.

Now I just have to hope for good weather, the seedlings are doing well in the greenhouse at home.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

MAY…

…is here and it is rather chilly. All the same, work on the allotment is going on – building raised beds inside one of my net cages. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, got a nice lot of timber from the friendly builders next door and it took a few trips with my wheelbarrow to take it to the allotment.

The tomato plants were outside already so this wasn’t too much of a shock for them as they got planted here. I used some old flower pots, cut off the bottom and embedded them in the compost, that way the tomato plants will have more depth for their roots. In the empty spaces will be lettuce Webs wonderful.

The same goes for my sunflowers – they stood in one of the net cages for a week or so ; they’ll be fine planted here as they have a bit of protection from the greenhouse.

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Last but not least – I covered four of my strawberry beds, they are flowering very well and some small strawberries are already there. I just don’t want to share them with the birds.

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The mason bees are doing what they are supposed to do, it is wonderful to see that.

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