25. MARCH

The great weather continues and that gives me a chance to get on with all the tasks on the allotment. Today was the turn of my large net cage, the soil was all dug over, all it needed was to fluff it up with a hoe and clear the weeds. It is quite a sizeable area, quite a lot to do. I had plans for it – peas of any kind – so I have climbing peas, Carlin (heritage) peas, purple podded peas and ordinary Kelvedon wonder peas. There is a square of soil left and I’d like to put some tomato plants in. Some years ago I did that and the tomatoes did very well.

That was the end of my morning session there. When I got home I had a very nice surprise waiting for me – a large box saying live plants, open immediately. Of course I did and found two very healthy looking honeyberries. I have heard of them but never had one. A very welcome present from Mike. I put both pots in a bucket of water to soak them and read the instructions. I decided to plant them in the fruit cage, it only needed a little re-shuffle – taking out three small chilean guavas and planting them together with the one I already have and the space was ready.

The three small guavas fitted perfectly in the space where the larger one is, it had too many empty patches before.

It is no surprise that my fruit trees are starting to flower. The Chinese pear is way ahead as usual, I just hope we’ll have some fruit this year. Last two years I didn’t have any yet a few years ago we had a glut of pears. They are delicious so I’m hoping to have them again.

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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.

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.

HERITAGE SEEDS

It was only by chance I saw an article in one of the national papers about heritage seeds, in particular Carlin peas. As ever I thought that I’d like to try and grow them.

I was surprised when the seeds arrived – didn’t look like peas at all. They germinated well, grew well too. I put them in one of my net cages where previously I had cabbages. That way the birds didn’t get a look in and I was able to leave them there untill I was ready to pick all the pods, already dry on the vine.

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I shall certainly grow them again next year, this amount is only from two rows of plants.

CARLIN PEAS

My motto – try to grow something new each year – is proving well worth the effort.

I found the heritage seeds by chance and was taken by the description of the Carlin or Black peas. I try anything once, if it works, I’ll grow it again, if not – well nothing is lost really.

I decided to grow the peas in one of my net cages, I had cabbages there last year. It had to be protected, I could imagine what the pigeons would do with the tiny plants – a tasty breakfast for them!

The peas were slow to start but now are at least 6ft tall and because the cage keeps them in, they are well secured to the net. They’re doing extremely well and we shall have plenty to last the winter and have enough to plant next year.

I’ve picked a few pods and,  as the web page says, they are tasty fresh too.

HERITAGE SEEDS

I like to grow something a bit unusual every year, this year is not different. I have got my usual unusuals – Tromboncino courgettes and Blauhilde purple – podded climbing beans but I was looking for something else.

My friend gives me the gardening pages from her Saturday’s Telegraph newspaper; I read it and pass it to my other friend. This time, a couple of weeks ago, there was just a little item that caught my eye. It was about popular Tudor vegetables. Of course, I read on and was hooked.

It mentions seeds that I haven’t heard about – Carlin peas, Black Spanish radish and Skirret. The result is that I ordered the three packets of seeds, these came yesterday and today two have been used. I have to wait with the radish, that will be sown in July because it can overwinter. I love veg that doesn’t have to be all harvested at once, I can come and get it as I want and need it.  This radish is one of them. I like it already!

I didn’t sow either the peas or the skirret in the open ground, the pigeons might like them too much when they germinate. Instead I put them in one of my brassica cages where I will grow ‘other’ in the rotation scheme (tomatoes, peppers tomatilloes and anything else that is not a brassica plant)

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The person in the seed company of Thomas Etty was very helpful, promised to send me their catalogue and added me to their mailing list. There’s a chance I might be able to get other heritage seeds in the future. My allotment will undergo some changes!