THE WEATHER

It is very frustrating this year. I was convinced that spring was here, my digging was getting done and I had plans what seeds to sow. Mother nature had a different idea and now I am stuck in, frustrated, unable to do anything. They are Marfona, Swift and British Queen.

Old egg boxes come very useful for this and in the end they can be torn up and put in the composter bins so nothing gets wasted.

GETTING THERE

After the few days of extreme weather I was able to get down to the farm and continue with my digging. My plots are done but this is one which I share with my friend Irene. I managed to do my half but as I really like digging I decided to continue. I was growing vegetables on my half last year already but the other half was left neglected – there was somebody else on it but she didn’t work it. Never mid, we shall soon sort it out.

It is a question of perseverance, as it goes from something like this

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to this, after a few hours. Amazing how weeds and couch grass grow!

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I hope the weather will continue to improve and I’ll be able to finish my marathon dig.

Who needs to go to the gym when you can be in fresh air?

 

PATIENCE….

…pays off!

Last year in March I got some unusual seeds from a new(for me, anyway) seed company called Incredible vegetables. Anybody who is interested in growing something a bit different should visit www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk and see for themselves.

My new seeds were Hablitzia Tamnoides, they germinated fine, I planted them out and they grew. I didn’t get much of a harvest so I thought perhaps I did something wrong there. The foliage died down and that was that.

However, I was working on my plot today, the plants were planted in one of my large net cages to protect them from being eaten by the pigeons and I noticed that there are little rosettes of growth beside the sticks that supported the plants. On close examinations I found that all four of my plants survived the winter and are ready to grow.

 

FEBRUARY

Well, another gardening year is upon us. Doesn’t the time fly?!

I was lucky that I managed to get most of my digging done when the weather was reasonable during November. Now I just have to go and fork it over and get rid of some persistent weeds – why don’t the slugs and snails like weeds??

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There is only one more piece of land to go over and I shall be ready for the planting and sowing.

That done I was able to concentrate on the greenhouse in my back garden. As the last thing at the end of autumn I sowed some lettuce seeds in one of the big grow bags. Of course the seedlings looked small and a bit pathetic but as soon as the days started getting longer they grew. I had a nice lot of iceberg lettuce seedlings and I managed to transplant them all. With a bit of luck and some more sunshine we shall have our own lettuce soon.

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MORE JAM

I have decided on a different strategy when it comes to jam making. The usual time was in the middle of summer when the weather is (hopefully) quite hot and it is all rather tiring. Not any more.

I always freeze the extra harvest of strawberries , raspberries and blackberries. The strawberries are crushed and weighed in 500g pots and frozen, the other berries are just frozen loose in bags.

Yesterday was a jam making day and it couldn’t be any easier. I selected 4 such packets, added the required amount of sugar, lemon juice and Certo and hey presto

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we have 12 more jars of strawberry jam.

I shall make some jam as I harvest the fruit but just enough to keep going and the rest of the fruit will be frozen, ready for future use.

PLANTING TIME…

…is here again.

I tend to do my planting back to front but it always works out. This occasion is no different.

Last Sunday afternoon I listened to one of my favourite programmes – Gardeners’ question time on Radio 4 and among other topics they were talking about apple trees. Well, you can’t have too many so I decided to pay attention. It was worth it. I’ve never heard of an apple called Keswick codlin; that didn’t stop me, found it and liked the sound of it. Even found a nursery, decided on the size and shape of the tree and ordered.

The nursery was a new one to me – Ashridge nurseries – and I am delighted with the service. They had my apple in stock, the size I wanted and no sooner did I order it then it came perfectly wrapped.

Then came the thought – where shall I plant it? I decided that I had enough trees on the allotment already so I started thinking of the best place in my back garden. And I found it. I had an almost empty raised bed beside the greenhouse, in a sunny spot and well sheltered by the fence. The soil there is good but I still added some organic matter and Fish, blood and bone meal, just to give it the very best start and all was ready.

All’s well that ends well, my latest tree is already in its position, hazel pole in situ,  carefully tied using soft ties (old cut up socks – you can’t beat them for softness and stretchiness).

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DREAMS

I have been thinking on these lines for quite a while.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the knowledge all over the world was used only for good? No harm in thinking that, I’m sure I am not the only one to think like that. I suppose because I’m coming close to a reasonably significant birthday, my thoughts are turning to this.

There’s a huge amount of knowledge and the whole world would benefit if we didn’t waste it on thinking how to harm the people who don’t agree with us/who belong to a different religious group/of different colour – here we can substitute whatever might be relevant.

It might be viewed as simplistic – there is nothing wrong with that – the same would apply to our food and how we provide it. Again I have this vision that whoever would want to, or be able to, could grow at least some of their vegetables. Nothing much is needed – it can be done in a few pots in the back garden or on a balcony. Amazing how much you could produce and it would surprise the non-gardeners how delicious it is.

That is  my other dream – all possible empty land would be cultivated and people would grow their own. It was actually proven that children eat vegetables that they grew themselves even if before they ‘didn’t like them’.

I know allotmenting is mainly for the retired – who would have the time or the inclination to spend every free moment digging and planting. But, as I said before, it can be done on a very small scale and whatever you’ll harvest, it’ll taste good. And you’ll know that it hasn’t been sprayed with some chemicals or some such.

Last but not least – after a day of digging and hard graft in the garden or on the allotment nobody would have much strength left to cause much trouble. One more benefit – from personal experience, whenever I had any worries or anxieties, it all sorted itself out after a tiring digging session. I don’t have to think about the digging so my mind is usually free to roam and sort itself out.

Years ago I received a card which says it all :

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COMMUNAL TREES

A few years ago we were lucky to get a small amount of money for our site and we decided to buy some fruit trees. They are all doing very well, we planted them at the end of one of the plots. It is actually at the end of my third of a plot, together with a fair lot of horseradish and a few crowns of rhubarb.

The only problem with it is that it tends to get overrun by weeds. This time of year is ideal for some drastic action. It was another nice day today so I did a bit of pruning of the trees – nothing too drastic, just shortening some very spindly branches and cutting out branches that were crossing over. Once that was done, the weeds were next to clear. At the same time I moved Simon’s invention for washing harvested vegetables closer to the tap. He had the clever idea to use an old wheelbarrow, remove the wheel and drill a few large holes in for drainage, cut off the handles and hey presto – a perfect solution to a dirty problem.

JANUARY

I like all seasons but there is something special about January. When the weather is good, like it was today, it is a pleasure and a delight to go down to the allotment and dig.

That means that most of my land is ready. The seeds have been ready for ages – as usual I will try to grow something different. But one thing is certain – I shall have to grow more carrots. I have finally managed to grow some decent carrots, alas not enough!

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I discovered the delicious forced rhubarb last year so this is another must this year. I have marked the crowns that were not forced last year and all is ready now for some tasty pink rhubarb.

There was just one more job to do in the back garden – cutting out some bamboo canes. I try to do this about once every two years – it gives me new been supports for the allotment. The thin tops and leaves I decided to burn in my new/rescued/appropriated chimenea. It worked and I can use the ash on the allotment. Nothing wasted!

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THE FIRST OF MANY

I started the new year as I mean to continue – on the allotment. We managed to take one more load of slab pieces to the allotment and that was enough to make a path in the middle of my large cabbage net cage.

The afternoon was devoted to sowing some seeds in trays. Leeks, onions Ails Craig and white onions, the seeds I bought when I was in Malta. I saw them there in the shops and was very happy when I found the seeds.

I use seed trays that I bought a number of years ago from Harrod Horticultural company. It was money well spent, I’m still using them and with care they’ll last many more years.

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They have one big advantage – even if I would miss out a few days, the seedling will be fine as the whole thing sits on top of matting and takes up water via the felt matting suspended in the bottom tray with water. I just have to make sure the tray is regularly topped up.