JOB DONE

IĀ  was hoping to finish clearing the polytunnel today and I think the job is just about done.

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The only job left for tomorrow will be to pull out the remaining roots, fork it all over again, spread some horse manure on it and wait for the cucumber seedlings to get a bit bigger before I can plant them there.

8.APRIL

It was a beautiful day today, just like a summer’s day so I decided to make a day of it. I made myself a flask of coffee, took a couple of slices of the bread I made yesterday, bottle of water and a banana and went to the allotment. I wanted to do a lot there and I think I managed. I finished sowing parsnips and carrots and also planted four rows of second early potatoes.

All this took quite a while, the ground was really dry and hard. I never thought I would be wishing for rain.

After a short break I continued with parsnip sowing – we shall have six lines of them. This year I took my time and sowed the seeds very slowly, fairly thinly so I wouldn’t need to thin the seedlings out. It worked and I made one packet of seeds go rather far. Then I did three more rows of carrots so all in all we shall have plenty of vegetables.

As the last job in the afternoon I decided to tackle the newly erected polytunnel.

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This was the sight that opened before me. Not very encouraging but everything is manageable.

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This is the better look, after turning the lawn-like surface over. The plan is to get to it tomorrow and clean out all the roots and clumps of grass, then spread a couple of sacks of horse muck, dig it in and wait for the right time to plant some cucumbers there.

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.

POLYTUNNEL

I had an idea that I’d like to have another greenhouse – more room to grow peppers and tomatoes. One day I was talking to Simon who has a large polytunnel on his plot. Due to circumstances he found it difficult to keep it in order and to cut a long story short he offered me a chance to use one half of it. Of course I said yes! We shall have peppers there and that way I shall have my two greenhouses to grow more tomatoes.

I went down my farm today in the afternoon and as it started raining I was able to dig the soil inside, water it and spread some horse muck in. Another job done!

Now I just hope for good weather so I can finish all my other jobs.

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.

THE BEST

I got myself a polytunnel soon after I started working on the allotment. At first all was well – the only snag was the watering; if I went away for a few days I had to ask some friendly gardener there to water the plants otherwise they would’ve perished.

After three years the plastic material started deteriorating, little holes appeared, the door couldn’t be closed because the zip broke – the list of problems was getting longer. However, the metal frame was perfectly sound, so the next step was quite obvious – never mind a new plastic cover, make it into a net tunnel.

And that is exactly what Mike and myself did last Sunday.

From this

after a few hours of fairly hard work to this…

I am delighted with it, it is all ready for planting brassicas – cabbages, kale, kohl rabi – I’m sure I’ll be able to fit quite a few plants in. And from now on I have got enough net cages to rotate my crops – no need to move anything, just remember what was where and change.

Bring it on!

BESPOKE CAGES

It was well worth waiting for!

A couple of years ago one of the plot holders made a fantastic brassica cage – he’s a carpenter so it was just pefect. He used hard wood and made a this cage in such a way that it could be taken apart and moved.

Simon inherited this cage, took it apart and moved it on his plot. This year, however, he didn’t want to use it any more and offered it to me. I tried not to snatch it too fast, didn’t want to seem too greedy. I always wanted a cage like this, but mine will stay put! I’ve got enough structures to be able to rotate my crops between the cages.

Thanks to good weather today and Simon’s hard work, I have an amazing brassica cage! I won’t be growing cabbages in it this year though, I had some kale in this place last year. No problem, I’ll put outdoor tomatoes and sweet peppers there.

This done, I continued on my other plot. I had a cage there for the past two years but wasn’t happy with the construction and the position of it. It was very easy to take it apart – I remembered how I made it and this was just the reverse process!

The net was carefuly saved, the wood too so it was easy to measure the area and start building.

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It is a bit bigger than the old one and as I didn’t grow any brassicas on this plot, I shall put a lot of kohl rabis there.

This is the end of building for this year, perhaps I will rebuild one more old cage in the autumn.

Now just to cover the frame of the old polytunnel with some netting and all is ready. For that I need another one of my helpers.

 

THERAPY

I am quite sure that digging is good for me, I have mentioned it here a number of times.

Even though all my plots are done, not a weed in sight (perish the thought!!) I needed to do a bit more. This time of year is not the easiest – my Dad’s anniversary is coming in a couple of days and we’ve had quite a bit of sorting out with my Mum and our friend Vera so digging was going to be the answer.

I have had a polytunnel on one of my plots for a number of years and the plastic cover is turning much darker green and also a number of holes and splits have appeared.

Rather than to buy a new plastic cover I decided to get rid of the old cover, dig the ground, expose it to the elements over the winter and in the spring fix netting on the frame thus creating another net tunnel.

The old plastic was easy to take off, I even cut it up so I can use the long pieces in case I need to cover the ground when not working on it (you never know, it might come handy for something….)

Result! As I left after nearly three hours of work all is done as I wanted. I could just about walk home – the body was aching but the mind was cleared and I’m happy!

FINISHED!

Even though the date in the calendar shows 1st of December, the weather was very mild today. After a manic morning where I spent at least half an hour on the phone trying to sort out my Mum’s remote control for her TV ( success, she’ll receive a new one in the post after a few days) I went to the allotment.

I knew that I had only a small piece of the last plot to dig – the hardest bit though! This part of the plot wasn’t cultivated during this year, I just didn’t have enough strength or will to dig it over. This is the neglected plot I adopted in the spring. Most of it was very productive, I had a huge pumpkin, loads of courgettes and squashes and a few sacks of wonderful potatoes. This year I shall only cultivate one half, another lady will take the other half, that way we can both manage better.

The soil looks good, very crumbly (now, but when I started it was full of bindweed and couch grass roots!) I always hated rotavators and now I hate them even more, they help to chop the roots into small bits and the bits merrily grow on! Bah!!

My half will just have potatoes, there is a small area of raspberries and one line of climbing beans. I shall have just a single variety of beans in each line, that way it’ll be better organised.

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This afternoon was well spent, not only did I manage to finish the digging but I also cleared the polytunnel, ready for action next spring. The plastic on the tunnel is a bit tatty and I’ve decided to replace it with a net, thus creating another net tunnel. The plastic is rather discoloured, it is quite dark inside and I shall make a better use of a net tunnel. I prefer to grow outdoor tomatoes anyway. My veg has to be tough and survive!

PLANTING TIME

Even though the weather is still quite unsettled and un-spring like I decidedĀ  to plant my Spagna Bianco beans out. I waited quite a while before I started them in pots in the greenhouse but they grew at an alarming rate and very soon were trying to get out of the greenhouse. I put the whole tray of them in the veranda to harden them so I think they were quite tough when they went in the ground. I didn’t want to take chances so I built a little fleece fence round them, perhaps just for a bit of protection from the wind.

There is also one line of them but this didn’t get any pampering because these are just beside the net tunnel and that seems to keep the wind off them.

The next job was to plant something in the four empty cold frames. I had radishes there, harvested them and now they were ready.

I have grown five bush courgettes, ideal for this, hopefully they’ll just sit there and produce loads of tasty fruit. One cold frame had to have two courgette plants but I don’t think this will matter. If it gets too overcrowded I’ll just carefully take one out and plant is elsewhere.

The last job was planting some more lettuce seedlings in the polytunnel. The first batch are doing very well and the four cucumbers as well. I had one tray of lettuce, one cucumber plant and one ‘mystery’ plant. It looks like a squash, courgette or pumpkin – the label got lost in moving. We shall see.