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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ALMOST THERE

I think I am catching up with myself. It takes some effort, especially yesterday (Saturday) and today. Friday was a good working day too and after all this effort I am almost done. Yesterday I managed to finish one half of a plot I share with my friend, she did too. On my half I have more raspberries, two rows of potatoes and the rest is ready with structures for growing climbing beans. It was very successful last year, I have only just finished the last of the dried beans.

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This is my more unusual find – marbles. Last year I found at least a dozen and thought that I would get no more. These were in the same area as last year. No idea how they got there but I like them.

Today I completed another net cage – it was a sorry-looking greenhouse without glass that Simon gave me last year. We placed it between my fruit cage and the large brassica cage – a perfect fit. It took an hour to do it – I have got a tried and tested method. More covered ground to grow things that our greedy pigeons would love to eat.

 

I also finished sowing some more carrots, parsnips and beetroot, so this plot is finished too. All that is left is one half where I will grow my courgettes and pumpkins.

LAST DAY OF THE YEAR….

…was devoted to repairs.

After the heavy snowfall just before Christmas I found that a number of my net cages looked in sorry state. I didn’t have the heart to take pictures as I was quite sad about it all. I didn’t think I would be able to repair them.

Amazing what a difference a few days can make. On closer inspections I found that the basic structure was sound, the net collapsed because the horizontal struts ware weak. Thanks to Simon who gave me some long pieces of hard wood I was able to replace the faulty ones, stretch the nets and fix themĀ  – thank goodness for zip ties – and all seems fine.

In fact they look even better now!

Final touch is a path of broken slabs down the middle of the wide ones, just to make it easier to walk there on a wet day. For that I must thank Frank who took the first wheelbarrow load there today and will do one trip each day untill we take them all there – his words. I daren’t think how many there are !!

MUSHROOMS

It is the time of year again when I think where to put what type of fertiliser or compost. I decided to get some more mushroom compost from my favourite place – Livesey Brothers. It was an enjoyable visit; it is not too far, an easy drive and not only did I get 6 large sacks of mushroom compost but also some tasty mushroom. I can already taste the risotto I’ll make in the next few days…..

The compost is earmarked for the net cages where I will grow brassicas next year and also for my fruit cage, I shall fees all my soft fruit bushes – but not blueberries, that’s the wrong stuff for them.

WEEDS

What are weeds? Wikipedia tells me that ‘A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, “a plant in the wrong place”. Fine and good but it doesn’t make my life any easier on the allotment.

I often wish that everything grew as well as the weeds – I would have a bumper crop every time. Never mind – get down to it and keep weeding.

 

This is going to be my new net cage. So far it remains empty but I have got a large roll of green netting so first thing in the spring I shall make a cage out of it and it’ll have cabbages growing there – one more net to help with the rotation. But I’m sure before I do that in the early spring I shall have to weed the whole area again. Painting the Forth bridge comes to mind…..

IN FULL SWING

It is harvest time!

As it is so hot these days I started going to the allotment quite early in the morning. The plan is that I will either water the most needy plants with the hose or, on alternate days, feed the ‘special cases’ either with the seaweed extract, comfrey tea or the liquid from my wormery.

It was the turn of the comfrey tea. My, does it stink!! And the smell seems to linger close to the ground, so when I was bending down, I got a good whiff of it. Never mind, the squashes love it!

I managed to pick another large box of strawberries, pulled out a lovely bunch of carrots and a few nice beetroot.

yesterday was a day to thin out the gooseberries…..

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…and I was pleased I had this lovely lot.

Got them home and in no time made a very tasty gooseberry and mint jelly. Goes a treat with cold meat, cheese or a quiche.

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As I was picking the gooseberry I also noticed that the currants are almost ready. That’s the beauty of having the fruit bushes in the net cage – I can take my time picking them, not like in the past where it was a competition between me and the birds. Guess who lost??

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Another benefit of net cages is the ease of growing brassicas. It was the same story in the past – try to stop the birds nibbling the leaves of the young plants so there was hardly anything left. I thought they wouldn’t like kohl rabi. I was wrong. So now the kohl rabi grows in the net cage and nothing gets at it and I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.

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THE FINAL ARTICLE

I had to do a few improvements to my latest cage but after today’s work I’m happy.

Because it stands very close to the path I decided to put a couple of boards between the net and the edge of the path – as I will trim the grass on the path I won’t be able to damage the net. I know it doesn’t look very pretty but it does the job.

The next was a little path leading to the door of the cage – just three slabs and it looks ok. In case I have to get inside on a wet day….

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And the last thing was sprinkling of a mix of annual flowers on both sides of the path. There isn’t enough room to grow any veg but it’ll be nice to have a mix of flowers to attract the bees.

ONE PERSON’S RUBBISH

…is another woman’s treasure.

The guy who left recently not only dismantled his little shed and left it in a pile to be burned but also discarded two large halves of an old trampoline base – he was used to have it on the ground covered with netting to grow cabbages under. To harvest them or to do any weeding he had to crawl on his hands and knees.

Well, I got these two halves and attached metal uprights – from my store of old bits of another trampoline. As these are smaller they fitted well together and the result is..

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…another net tunnel. You can’t have enough of these!

There will be space to grow cauliflowers and all kinds of cabbages and kohlrabi.

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