Posted by: flat_bob | August 5, 2009

Harvest

Over the last few weeks we have been harvesting the crops on the allotment. Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, potatoes, onions, broad beans, spinach and courgettes too. The rhubarb also continues to be pulled occasionally. With the minimum of effort we have achieved a bountiful harvest!

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If the truth is told, for the most part, we have let the allotment look after itself this year. There have been occasional days weeding (too occasional if the number of weeds still present is anything to go by) but we have let the plants do or die. To our surprise the plants have coped pretty well without our loving care and attention. Sure, some did not make it – the mange tout failed this year and the gooseberries were smothered by the weeds and have all but died. But on the whole the lack of parental guidance did not see the plot go off the rails.

However, this can’t continue. Allotmenteering requires a certain commitment. The joy that comes from the harvest is a product of the preparation of the soil and the nurturing of the crop. The joy of this year’s harvest comes from the hard work put in over the last three years and we were only able to leave the plot as much as we did because of the hard work that I have written about in previous posts on this website.

Things here are changing. Miss M and Mr S are moving away, leaving me to work the plot alone. I simply cannot put in the number of hours that is needed to maintain a high quality plot as well as fulfilling other commitments in my life. Whether I give up the plot completely or give up half the plot is yet to be decided, but the time has come to downsize in one way or another.

I’ve loved the last three years on the allotment. It’s done much more than just providing me with fruit and veg. But things move on.

As for this blog, well, I think I have said all I can say about my allotment. This will be my last post here. The blog has been an integral part of my allotment experience. I have really enjoyed using it to express my feelings on the success and failures I have encountered. But I don’t feel that I have anything more to add, so I really should stop!

The best thing about writing the blog has been the communication with the people who have read it. Blogging is fantastic in that it connects you with other bloggers, people with the same interest as you and people with whom you can share your experiences. I have loved reading other peoples blogs and the comments that people have left on my posts. Both have been sources of motivation and inspiration. Thank you to those who commented and to those who read without leaving a message.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/flat_bob/sets/72157621875216716/

Posted by: flat_bob | April 5, 2009

Fairweather Gardening

Gone are the days I would go down the plot and dig glass out of the ground in the rain. Gone are the days of numb fingers trying to prise nettle roots out of frozen soil. I’ve turned into a fairweather gardener.

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Today was sunny so I decided to go to the plot and put in my potatoes and onions. I have no idea when they should go in, but it was sunny today, and it felt right.

I’ve also put some spinach and spring onion seeds in. I put cloches over them to encourage them to grow. I’ve also set some broad bean and mangetout seeds germinating.

I guess the time is right for the fairweather gardener to get gardening.

Shield Bug

Shield Bug

Posted by: flat_bob | March 29, 2009

Pay day

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This is the start of the third year at the plot. Last weekend we were digging the soil over ready for planting the potatoes. Unlike with previous years digging we did not encounter any weeds (well, not proper ones like couch and bramble) and there was barely any glass. It was really enjoyable to dig.

This, of course, has come as a result of two seasons of hard work. The plot was a mess when we took it over, but now it is cultivated. The soil is easy to dig; I never thought I would be saying that two years ago!

The sprouting broccoli is in flower and ready to eat. It is the most tender broccoli that I have tasted, much better than the stuff in the supermarket (which is pretty good itself). The seed for these plants was sown at about this time last year, and it has taken a lot of love and care to get the plants to this stage. We really are reaping the benefits of last years hard work, which is a great motivation to get going and invest the time again this year.

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The glorious rhubarb is back, and again, this year it is better than ever. We have four strong rhubarb plants which we have looked after for the last two seasons. Careful not to pick to much last year, our self restraint has payed off as the rhubarb is growing like rockets shooting out of the ground.

Allotmenteering is delayed gratification. It’s time for payback.

Posted by: flat_bob | February 21, 2009

Nature gets there first

Snowdrops

I’m still waiting for my bulbs to come into flower, but on a walk in the countryside yesterday with my sister we saw lots of these lovely Snowdrops. Wild flowers always seem more beautiful than cultivated ones.

Posted by: flat_bob | February 18, 2009

Here we go again, slowly…

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I think  I should start my first blog of the year by saying how much I’ve enjoyed reading other gardening blogs over the winter period. Winter is a lean time for growing, so I have appreciated the creativity of the winter garden blogger. I want to mention WeedyBeanz, Veg Plot and Our patch of earth in particular for keeping a lapsed allotmenteer entertained. (Oh, and kudos to Google Reader for keeping tabs on all the bloggers – if you’re not using Reader, you should!)

My allotment association now has a website. According to it I should be spending 6 to 8 hours a week on my plot. In fact today was the first day I’ve been to the allotment since before Christmas. Still the allotment looks no worse than most of the other plots. What exactly should I be doing for 6 to 8 hours a week in winter?

Maybe the 6 to 8 hours is actually meant for daydreaming. Planning the coming year. I’ve been doing that recently and, from the plans in my head, this year should be the best so far. It’s agreed that this summer will be long and hot, not a flood in sight. And the frosts will have killed all of the soil beasties so I can grow my vegetables with impunity. In my head, at least, that is how it will pan out.

In reality the plot is a mess and needs a lot doing to it. It’s still too miserable (and wet) to get out and dig, so today I just made a mental list of jobs that need doing. And I took a photo of the Sprouting Broccoli!

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So this is it. Start of the new gardening year. I’ll be getting my potatoes and onion sets later on this week, and putting my plans on paper. For now though, you’ll have to make do with with a photo of my bulbs last week as the frost started to thaw. I think this image captures the feeling of this time of year – the plants want to get going, we want to get going. I just hope the winter gets going soon.

Posted by: flat_bob | November 1, 2008

Absenteeism

Well, it’s been a while. I’ve been worrying about the allotment for the last couple of weeks, so much so that I was scared to visit it. Due to work commitments and a lack of motivation to tend the cabbages, which I don’t particularly like anyway, I hadn’t been to the allotment for ((((((six))))))) weeks. So in my mind the plot had been ransacked by looters, invaded by weeds and probably had a notice stapled to it telling me that I was being evicted. But today was sunny and I was driving past the plot, so I took a deep breath and went to take a look.

This may look a mess to you, but it’s a huge relief to me. OK, there are lots of weeds, but it’s all relative. No allotments look great in November, not unless you have too much time to spare on them. While there is plenty to do it is manageable. And at this time of year there is the added pleasure of knowing that any work done to tidy up the plot will keep it looking tidy until the spring.

Safe in the knowledge it was still there, I left my allotment and went back to the house. The digging will have to wait for a bit longer. But at least the fear has gone, and I absolutely will go back in the next couple of weeks to do some work on it. I promise.

Posted by: flat_bob | August 27, 2008

Dreaded Yellow Eggs

I really don’t want to turn this blog into a list of plant pests on my allotment, but the lepidopteran onslaught I am having to repel at the moment is absolutely outrageous. The first thing I do when I go to the allotment now is check the cabbages to pick off the caterpillars. No matter how many I picked off on my previous visit there are always more to keep me busy. So I’m become even more vigilant and trying to get to the eggs before they hatch out.

These yellow eggs have been laid by the large cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae). They were quite easy to find as they had been laid on the upper side of the leaf. That’s right! The butterflies are getting so cocky they are laying their eggs in full view! Interestingly I have only found these eggs on the broccoli and not on the cabbages.

Just a few plants along the row and I came across these wiggling wrigglers.

They look like they have recently hatched out. Large cabbage white caterpillars eat their egg cases after they hatch which explains why there are none present on the photo. Luckily I got to these before they did any real damage.

Seeing all of the white butterflies at the allotment today it looks as though I’ll be picking and scraping the brassica leaves for a good while yet.

Posted by: flat_bob | August 24, 2008

Onion Harvest

So its time to bring in the onions.

Not a bad haul this year. We put manure on the soil at the start of spring and it seems to have paid off with the onions being pretty hefty. A lot of the bulbs bolted, which means they wont store well. This was particularly a problem with the red onions, most of which bolted. I’ll have to be more careful next year when I buy the sets to get bolt-resistant sets.

So the onions will go into the greenhouse to dry before being strung up. The shallots came out a few weeks ago and have now been strung up ready for use in the kitchen.

Posted by: flat_bob | August 22, 2008

Le Bien, La Mal

Allotmenteering, like many things, involves the interplay between good and bad. I’ve previously written about the frogs, toads and newts that share my soil. These, of course, represent the good. They feed on the pests that want to eat my plants so are always a welcome sight. I’ve seen so many mini frogs over the last month or so, so I’ve been careful of where I’ve been stepping!

The rain is good, of course. It makes the plants grow large and saves me from having to water. However, the rain has it’s bad points. The moist, warm conditions that this summer has provided have been ideal for slugs and snails. Slugs, of course, represent the bad. And despite the good work that my amphibians have been doing, the slugs are beginning to win.

This bad boy (Arion ater) lives on top of my wheel barrow. I keep my barrow hidden under tarpaulin, which is clearly the ideal conditions for slugs and snails, as whenever the wheelbarrow comes out to work it is covered in these slimy pests.

I don’t mind a few slugs at this time of year. After all, the frogs and toads need to eat and the birds do too. Any hedgehogs would love these fellas. So I’m not going to try and kill these. They can have their chances in the wild part of the allotment. Bad they may be, but they make good food for my four legged friends.

The same cannot be said for these bad lads…

The whole allotment site has been a haze of cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) for the last couple of weeks. It was inevitable that they would lay their eggs on my cabbages and their caterpillars (the green one in the photo) would begin to take that which is rightfully mine. They are bad, with no redeeming features. The big brown caterpillar in the photo is from the cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae). You can see from the size of him how bad he is for the plant. Find out more about brassica pest control here.

So it looks like I’ll be on caterpillar watch for the next couple of weeks. I’ve not had a bad year for pests, what with the rabbit fence and the lack of pigeons (I think someone has had the air rifle out again!), so I can’t complain.

But I’ll not surrender the cabbage crop; they’re too good to lose.

Posted by: flat_bob | August 14, 2008

The Rough and the Smooth

I’ve been struggling with the allotment recently. Struggling with finding time to tend to it, struggling with the motivation to tackle the carpet of weeds that grow bigger ever day, and struggling to find any good weather that allows me to do anything other than pick off the ballooning courgette fruits from their persistent parent plants.

A break in the weather today, however, allowed a brief visit to the plot. The rain is encouraging everything to go bananas. Everything is proliferating; runners on the strawberry plants, the tubers on the potatoes, broad beans in their pods, the carrots in their compost, slugs and their frog enemies – it’s all gone a bit mad and just a little bit out of control.

So faced with the uphill struggle that is the allotment in August, I packed up and came home, resolving to have a really good go at it next time I visit!

There’s standing water on parts of the allotment, something which is usual in the winter, but not summer. That said, the squashes are loving the heat and rain. The photos below are Polo (Patty pan) and then Crown Prince.

Polo (Patty Pan)

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