Thursday, 12 September 2019

A Funny Old Year

It is dawning on me that, although we had a poor summer,  there is not going to be a compensatory extension.  Septembers wind and rain has arrived and there is no going back.  When I say poor I mean OK up until mid July and then wet cold and sometimes windy thereafter.  Some crops fared well, particularly blueberries, but others took forever to get started (tomatoes, runner beans and squashes) and then got battered by the wind as soon as they did. Everyone's sweetcorn was very late and probably will not ripen - I still harbour  hopes. It was warm and wet enough for the blight to sweep through our site in August.   If I needed confirmation that the weather pattern has been atypical it has been provided by the wisteria which has decided it has been through a winter and it is now time to flower.  It makes a start contrast to the rowan berries:

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Bird In the Hand?

Since my post  Mellow Yellow  I have been waiting to collect ripe seedpods from the Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) in our wildflower bed. 

They have not disappointed.  Some birds seem to have more toes than others.

Here is a reminder of what the flower and leaf look like.

And now the real test:  how do the seedpods compare against the "real" thing.    

I think that is a perfect match!

In case you are wondering why I am collecting them.  It is to help stock the new school wildflower meadow.  

Wednesday, 4 September 2019


Today I am over the moon because not only have I met a new bird, but I have managed to capture it on film.  It's a dipper!  

This one patrols the burn (stream) that runs along the length of our allotment site and then disappears into a culvert underneath a very busy roundabout.  I made a very poor quality video and the sound on it is even worse, mostly being the traffic. What it does capture though is the dipping that led me to my correct guess as to what it might be.  This has made my day, or even week. Here, technology permitting is the video:

Only one song suggests itself.  And I apologise in advance:

Friday, 30 August 2019

Crop Shop!

We had a garden gate sale at the school today. Fair to say that there was a bit more colour compared to two weeks ago when the potatoes and broad beans were sold. 

Between the two we have added £70 to the garden fund.

There are flowers as well as veg.

And demonstration beds like the "4 Seasons" veg beds designed to have something cropping at any time of the year.

We also maintain a rotation.  Here are the legumes (with soft fruit to the left).

Here are the netted brassicas

And some exotics like sweetcorn and pumpkins.

Let's not forget the wildflower bed:

The level of interest from pupils, parents and passersby (it is beside a public footpath) is a source of great encouragement.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Emergency Action Required

Here's a nightmare picture.  It is my potato patch after the chop.  The blight must have blown through our allotment site last week and the only thing to do was to chop off the haulms in a belated attempt to stop the spores descending into the soil and damaging the tubors.

20th August 
My haste meant that I neglected to take a picture before.  Here is the latest picture I can find of the potato patch, taken on 26th June.(July was busy)

26th June
There's no practical precaution that I know of for blight, aside from isolation from other potato plants.  That's not practical on an allotment site.  

At least for carrots the dastardly root fly can be kept out using a barrier method:

Environmesh protected carrots.
Thank goodness some crops are able to flourish out in the open without protection: Here's a current shot of the salad bed:

Also thriving on in the warm and wet conditions: squashes and sweetcorn.

I also had a nice surprise to discover a bumper crop of blackberries was ready for picking. 

I will be leaving the potatoes for storage underground for a week or two in the hope that any blight spores not removed with the leaves will dissipate out in the open.  Hopefully the emergency measures will have saved the crop.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Lessons from 2019 - So Far

I know it is a bit early to review the year but I guess all the rain has given me time to reflect.

.  1.  No two years are the same  - Admittedly this is a proviso that undermines all the rest.  Draw from your experience but realise that the current experience is just one of many possibilities.  (how Zen!) Rainfall in particular is hard to predict.

22.  The wider variety you plant the more chance that something will succeed.  “It’s been a good year for ______.    - Blueberries this year.

3.      If something works, try it again next year. Your ratio of success should grow year on year. – Elephant garlic, cavolo nero, fennel, sweetcorn. These novelties  have all become bankers for me.

Elephant Garlic - Now a banker

4.    Try something new every year. You will never run out of possibilities and some will enrich your repertoire.  This year I have been growing chicory as an experiment (yet to be evaluated). The Zebrunne shallots from seed have been another novelty.  One that didn’t work well.  New varieties of familiar crops can also add novelty and excitement.  This is the area seed catalogues, TV programmes, magazines and word of mouth excel at.

The hopefuls!

 5.       Timing is everything. Once missed a window of opportunity becomes a bolted door. Here poor germination or predation by birds or slugs can upset the well balanced applecart.  After initial sowings parsnips, leeks , carrots have all missed the sowing boat in years gone by.  Multiple sowing by way of insurance is a good idea. There is also an optimal time for planting out seedlings as anyone with left over brassica seedlings will appreciate.  The leftover plants are a sorry bunch before they are finally consigned to the compost heap. Timing is also important for weeding:  The earlier the better.

Current crop of carrots -  sown at the right time.

6.  Don't stop sowing once summer arrives.  That first flush of salads will pass and where will you be then. Autumn and Winter can be the most rewarding times to be growing your own!

7.      Don’t go on holiday in July!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Peas and Beans

Vegetable growers should never take a holiday in July.  This year that's exactly what I did, as you no doubt will have gathered from my previous two posts.

On my return to the vegetable plot there is a lot of greenery, and not all of it weeds.  Here the rather neglected end of the plot that I concentrated on today:

Back row (left to right) there is the official Jerusalem artichoke patch, broad beans, the unofficial (last year's) Jerusalem artichoke patch and then the Runner bean wigwam.  In front there is sweetcorn, peas and French beans.  There is also a rogue cucurbit - probably a self sown Sharks Fin Melon on the right now scrambling all over the supports for the tall peas! I have removed the broad beans after stripping them of their full pods but left the cucurbit to see what happens.

Peas pods ready for picking

French beans, short peas, tall peas (Alderman) with broad beans behind
 I am well pleased with the runner beans now moving from flowering to podding.

We will have too many for our own consumption and will be freezing them and passing them on to neighbours.  That is with one wigwam so you can imagine my astonishment to come across the following scenario at Tintinhull Gardens a week ago

That's going to produce a lot of beans!

Tintinhull Gardens