A Not really the end but…Review of 2018

I am not one for letting the calendar dictate the growing seasons, but, every year bloggers across the globe pump out their Reviews, so ,despite knowing that nature ignores our plans at any opportunity, I’m going to call time on the last 12 months.

My memory isn’t the greatest so I’m going to use my Facebook page as a guide. That’s where most of my posts go, along with my Instagram (Westongreenman) and Twitter.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible year. It wasn’t spectacular either but I had no major disasters so I’m not complaining.

It’s easy to think we started with a thick blanket of snow, but that didn’t come until the end of February , start of March.

The year actually started with my announcement regarding weight loss. My own, not the allotment! I was determined to drop two stones in weight , from 18 to 16, for health reasons.

I did it. I hadn’t set any time goals but it was realised within 3 months. I may have struggled maintaining that during the last month due to bad weather and good food, but I’ll be back to my best size by February.

My first real allotment based post was about Rhubarb, digging up, splitting and replanting the best bits. I also experimented, because that’s what I like, and potted a small root up. I had decided to try forcing a piece in the greenhouse at home.

I covered the pot with an upturned bucket and within a couple of months I had a single stalk of dark pink ,juicy sweetness. I only had the one stalk, but it proved a point.

 

 

 

It was around the same time I braved the loppers and pruned the pears tree and apple trees. I say brave but I had little choice, the pear was getting too tall to pick from and would have become even more of a problem next year had it been left.

The apples just needed thinning to encourage a good frame-work. I can attest to the results of the pruning, we had a good crop of both fruits and the apples were a little larger than the last year, but that was its first crop.

February saw the new potatoes set for chitting. There is still some debate regarding the efficiency of this practice but the general feeling is, it helps get an early start on the first tubers but the lates don’t really benefit. I don’t grow main crop potatoes so I chit. Varieties?

Rocket and Pentland Javelin. A relatively new and an old reliable variety. Results were mixed but a lot of that was due to space issues, weather and timing for planting.

March saw sharp frosts and special offers. Snow fell and garlic grew. The weather kept us all from doing anything other than plan and sow indoors. Luckily, seeds were plentiful as most of the gardening magazines were giving them away in bundles. Keep that in mind this year too.

If we get more of the white stuff, remember to do what I did last year, get some covers down. Once the worst had melted away I put mini tunnel cloches out on as many beds as I could, to dry and warm the soil in preparation. Some of that preparation was digging and lining a hole for my first Fig tree, something I’ve been after since I first tasted one fresh from the tree at Uphill Manor.

April became much of the same. More seeds and by now some results. Butternut and tomatoes popping through. After the snows of March we had the rains of April. Showers maybe but enough on already sodden soil to cause issues. Clay soil like mine doesn’t drain well, which is why I grow in beds and follow the no dig system. April also saw the first harvest of rhubarb. Earlier than expected and very welcome.

In fact, looking back, April was quite the busiest month so far. Potatoes started in bags at home, Polytunnel construction finished and plenty of new life starting in the seed trays.

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May and June seem like a million years ago now but they were the start of the migration of plants and seed from home to the plot. Support frames were constructed for the beans and peas sown at the same time. Tomatoes potted on and more seeds sown. The tunnel was getting closer to full with raised beds and compost going in.

The movement went the other direction too, with the first strawberries coming home, at least the ones that didn’t get eaten on site!

It was time for the cardboard revolution to start gaining pace with grass clippings and compost piling on top.  No dig is the way forward!

July was time for the garden at home to get a bit of an upgrade. Gravel mulch laid over a weed membrane fitted around the existing shrubs. As a late tip, try putting the weed cover down first, then planting through. Fitting it all around well established plants is a nightmare best avoided.

The allotment was in full flow by then, with the longer ays and brilliant weather.The first summer fruits were coming in strong and the squash were going out. The tomatoes were by now starting to fill out and they brought some surprises themselves.

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That was labelled as Indigo Blue, a medium to cherry sized dark purple !

Anyway, that was a rough round up of the first half of 2018.

I’ll work on the second half next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Remembered.

 

November was an odd companion.

Weather through the month was so varied it was hard to really tell what season it was most days.

The rain falling meant the temperature was too high for frost, the clouds stopped the sun from  making things too hot.  

Progress outside was and remains slow. The garden slows down naturally this time of year, the season of preparation. Preparing for winter, for hibernation. 

Everything doesn’t stop though, it just happens out of sight, below the protective blanket of the soil. Bulbs, seeds, roots. All working away at building up for the big rush in Spring.

Meanwhile, under the protective cover of the polytunnel, seedlings are growing, slowly but surely. Carrots and Turnips are producing their first true leaves, a sign that dangerous risky period of first establishment has been successful. Lettuces and Beetroot are not far behind.

The peas are not faring so well however. The few that germinated looked healthy and even vigorous but, something nibbled the tops off. Oddly, they only cut through them and left the stalks on the surface.

 Outside, the grass is still growing fast and strong. I’ve resolved to deal with it in the next season. How is yet to be decided.

Mowing isn’t practical due to layout,accessibility and infrequency of visits. When the time allows, the weather doesn’t.  

Lifting the turf and covering with something practical is the next option. Weed membrane would be the base layer with any option. Chopped bark is one possible topping. The positives are tidiness and drainage. Negatively, it also provides good cover for slugs and snails. its liable to blow away during dry spells and walking on it with wet or muddy boots will add three inches of bark to your height. Worst of all, unless you can get a free supply from a friendly tree surgeon, it’s an expensive option.

Gravel or chippings is never going to be a free supply. The cost will always be an issue as I’ve yet to meet a local quarry supplying chippings to allotments free of charge. The drainage would be top of the list. It won’t blow away. It will still stick to muddy boots but if the paths to the plot aren’t muddy,and they won’t be, this isn’t really that much of an issue with either option.  Price will be the big question. Gravel would require less topping up.  Bark should be cheaper. 

The third potential option would be more permanent but initially more expensive solution: Paving slabs.

The forth and most unlikely option is a range of unusual things. Straw, sand, shredded paper or even crushed sea shells. All are problematic in supply and the straw and paper are very likely to rot down if they don’t blow away first. 

As I say, I’ll need to think long and hard about it. 

Another month, Another catch-up.

Well, its been a while again. It seems, although social media is a more immediate media, blogging in its own right appears to be a much more infrequent and premeditated practice.

The slight amount of effort required to pull a smart phone from your pocket/bag compared to finding your laptop,plugging it in because the battery is probably flat and then actually typing up a blog is part of the problem.

I could just become a modern, hipster friendly blogger and leave my computer set up and charged at all times but I have small humans who visit regularly and love tech, so maybe not.

Anyway, frequency aside, it’s a catch up of what’s been going on since…well, June I think!

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The first thing that is noticeable from the photograph above is , I have a new camera ,new phone. Not entirely by choice but by default. My HTC just decided to stop working. No warning, no wobbles just black screen one day that never recovered.

That means I’ve been taking quite a few pictures.

Which in turn means I’m going to post a few on here.

I’ll try to add an explanation behind each one but I’ve tried to keep it garden related.

The Hydrangea are coming into their own as the temperatures drop, the autumn colours of russets and purples are giving way to the fiery reds and oranges, the flowers are becoming hips or dry seed pods and the garden is taking on its winter wardrobe again.

I sowed some late salads in the form of oriental greens and all season lettuces, plus a risky sowing of beetroot, around august. The lettuce have survived the worst of the pests and the beetroot have already given me enough roots for sandwiches and salads for not only myself but also my dear Father-in-Law, a lovely man who relishes a beetroot sandwich.

The Chinese cabbages are starting to heart up but the mustard went to seed pretty quickly. Despite this, I just nipped the flowers off and I’m still picking lots of leaves from them. The Mizuna is a glorious success, handfuls of these peppery finely cut leaves are filling the fridge. 43242314_174660853399860_5716958557997547190_n

In the polytunnel I’ve decided to risk a few salads under cover. I moved three veg trugs from home to the tunnel and sowed a selection of veg/salads in them to see what works.

So far the Purple Top Milan turnips have popped up like weeds, with the Chard and Egyptian Beetroot following shortly. The Peppers from earlier in the year are still hanging on so they’ll stay.

I’ve decided to risk Peas, both in a border and in a window box, both in the tunnel. If the window box residents pop up, I’ll plant them outside if it’s not frosty. The ones in the bed may well just serve as shoots,as will the boxed ones if the temperature drops too low. That’s no great problem though, I like pea shoots!

I caved to my love of fruit on the plot and added another Pear tree. The long story is that I tried a fruit from a friends tree. It was a revelation and , by its shape and size, and of course, it’s flavour, I knew it wasn’t the same as my boring by comparison Conference Pear.

It turned out to be a Doyenne Du Comice, an ancient French variety that dates back to at least the 1880’s.

So I didn’t have to look far to find one, as I’d seen them for sale at The Range.

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It’s now in a big hole in well drained but moisture retentative soil, packed with garden compost , topped with a membrane cover to keep the weeds at bay while it establishes.

Having spent a cold afternoon cutting back limbs that have grown and spread over the joint path between my neighbour and I, I made sure this was planted so that the side with the least growth was facing the plot next door.

To find the space I could either have moved a few randfom strawberries to fit it n with the existing framework of trees or through caution to the wind and plant wherever a clear spot presented itself. I’ve seen strawberries grown in tunnels, in fact commercially it’s the norm , so they went and the tree joined the grid of nine other mixed fruit trees.

Coincidently there were nine strawberry plants to relocate.

Fate?

Serendipity?

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Finally, as it’s the season of terrible ghouls and horrific monsters, we come to my grandchildren.

No, not them, the pumpkins I grew and we carved.

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I can happily admit, I did most of the work, from growing to scooping out and even burningmy fingers lighting, but they drew the pictures on them for me to cut . They are only 5 and 3 after all.

 

 

 

 

Squashed!

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some of a range of vegetables that have been fast gaining popularity,the squashes.

Squash are from the species Cucurbita and are mainly known as pumpkins,butternut or courgettes. Commonly large courgettes are mistaken for Vegetable marrows but they are technically a different plant.

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I’m growing a few Jack O’Lantern pumpkins for carving and hopefully eating,a few yellow courgettes and a singular butternut. I’m also trying a second attempt at a heritage variety, Cornell’s Bush Delicata.

From the top working down are the first early shots of the following: Two Jack O’Lanterns amongst the Sweetcorn, a small Delicata with three runner beans and two Jacks with a yellow courgette beneath a dual row of Runner Beans.

The Polytunnel contains,amongst other things, another yellow courgette, a Jack O’Lantern in a tub and a small Butternut. In fact, there is another squash but it has been so slow to start I can’t really identify if it is a butter nut or not. I’m not pinning much hope on it.

Anyway, the ones that are doing well are looking like we might have a store cupboard full by Autumn.

So far it’s only been courgettes but the pumpkins are producing small fruits and the Butternut is showing embryonic fruits on the female flower stems.

I’m sure from looking at the fruits from the courgettes that I have two different varieties. I’ll have to go back through my records to see if that’s the case. Either way, I’m getting lots of yellow courgettes.