Our allotment with photos at last!
Yesterday I popped to the lottie for a good few hours, being the 1st to arrive on site I had the whole allotment field to myself which was bliss (hubby was working yesterday and today, next week we have the week off together) . For me, I find there is nothing like hearing the birdsong in the early morning on a very early spring day with the sun shining and a nice cold nip to the air, with the promise of warmer sun to come as the morning progresses (I was at the lottie for around 7.30am, I was going to go earlier but tried not to rush there for a change).
A few times I have been asked to load some photos up and yesterday after hand-weeding 3 beds (very heavy going even with a hand trowel due to the wetness of the soil) I took some photos so I hope this works and you will be able to see our allotment at last.
I thought at least if the beds were hand weeded, when they do dry out sufficiently to dig I can do that quite quickly without worrying about the weeding of them. Some of the beds have started to dry out as you will see but some, are still very boggy with a slimy crust to the top.
This is where our shed was before we dismantled it to deal with the rats, as you can see the soil is soaking wet and the runs were flooded! Hubby raked the soil into the runs so I didn’t have to keep looking at them. Oh the smell – it honked!
The plot is looking rather like a dumping ground at the moment because the shed is dismantled and stored under the black plastic on the left, the slatted wood was our shelves under the shed window and my parents dropped off a load of joists from their neighbors house which had been pulled down, this wood will make an excellent fruit cage on the plot next door (to the right and almost out of the photo shot)
A thick and sticky crust is forming where the water is starting to drain away, this is very heavy sticky clay, too wet to dig and on some beds even to hand weed. It will be a long time before we can really get any proper work done on the allotment to get the beds ready for sowing.
Some beds we have been able to hand weed, this one we did last weekend, the garlic in the background (about 20 or 30 cloves which I will freeze when they mature) have really picked up as they were going very yellow when the bed was flooded, since then the bed has started to dry and the garlic is able to pick up the nutrients in the soil. I used a 3 pronged hand rake to break the stick crust around the garlic and sprinkled some Growmore to give the garlic a bit of a feed to help it recover further. The cloches in front are covering the shallots which I planted yesterday, a little early perhaps but the cloches will keep the cold off them and will help warm the soil a little. The empty ground in the front of the picture is where I shall plant out some of my leeks.
Leeks which I sowed in late autumn last year, as an experiment I wanted to see if I could bring some on earlier for an early crop, these are now ready for planting out, having already been hardened off over winter. The bucket in the background is forcing our chicory chicons. I forgot to take a photo but they are looking really good and another week or two will be ready for harvest. I thought they needed a warm dark place to be forced but it seems a black upturned bucket is doing the trick. Perhaps the colour of the bucket and the thickness of the plastic is providing enough heat for them.
The greenhouse has been so hot the past few days that we had the door open, but to keep the rats and mice out hubby came up with the idea of sliding an off-cut of polycarbonate in the runner and sides of the door/frame, its a snug fit and you have to fiddle a bit to get it in but it stays put. The chairs behind are normally occupied by hubby and I, so I felt a bit lonely taking my tea-break on my own yesterday as I had no-one to bounce ideas off during my breaks. Soon 2 other plot holders arrived and it wasn’t long before I was asked over to one of their plots to be shown how she is getting along and listen to her plans for her plot this year. I also managed to share a tea-break with another friend we chewed the cud over planting times, soil condition after the flooding and how quickly the plots will dry out.
The greenhouse is starting to fill up quite nicely, here are some of our onion seedlings, now starting to stand up right on their own, out of photo shot are also sown are tomatoes, peppers, chillies, a few flowers all in the greenhouse whilst outside in the cloche greenhouse are the brassicas.
The above is a quick photo of a couple of trays of sown brassicas and peas, Alderman and Petit Pois I think, plus cabbage, sprouts and kale – Rossingale an old variety with a sweet taste. The upturned pots are ready to support more trays keeping the young seedlings off the ground and hopefully a little further out of the harm of slugs!
One of the beds I was able to hand weed yesterday. The soil looks lovely and ready for planting or raking to sow seeds, but don’t be fooled, about an inch or two down it is soaking wet and very sticky. Only patience and time will work here, with a bit of sun and a steady breeze to dry the soil out and although I did hand weed it I didn’t disturb the soil structure being very careful not to bring up the sticky mud below. However, by breaking the sticky crust on top this will allow the warmth and the breeze to get into the gaps and hopefully dry the soil out a bit quicker. It won’t take long, only about 10 minutes to dig each bed once it has dried out and incorporate some organic matter. Some of the beds are very shallow in soil and over time will be built up with compost. One compost heap worth fills one bed and it takes about 6 – 12 months for my compost to rot down. Hubby is going to dismantle the compost heaps he made as they are now starting to fall apart and when he re-builds them we will make them warmer by lining the sides with cardboard and putting a lid on them to help retain and generate heat to enable the compost to decompose quicker.
Our fruit plot (or it will be once it is finished – work in progress), sits next door to our veg plot which is on the right and out of photo shot. This photo was taken some time ago because the greenhouse is not on the plot and there is still a lot of black plastic. Although at this point it looks like we had made a start digging the soil over and incorporating organic matter. I can just about see one or two fruit trees, apple, pear and plum I believe (only little whips).
I love this photo, its not technically brilliant but it sums up what I love about early mornings, this was a couple of years ago on the allotment, around 6.30am one early summer’s day. The sun is up, there is still a freshness to the air before the summers heat stifles it out and dew has fallen on a beautiful cobweb. I took this photo before I went to work and moments like this can help calm a busy soul, bring peace to a troubled mind and bring joy to a person before work. Again the allotment site was empty, just hubby and I and a flask of coffee. I daren’t have done any digging as I always look like Ive been rolling in the mud so before work I tend just to have a coffee and wander around the plot enjoying the site to ourselves, hearing the birds and just being still.
And another photo of early one summers morning, possibly the same morning as I took the photo above. There are what looks like a lot of empty plots, possibly these had seeds sown and they cannot be seen, I never have empty plots during the summer so I guess this is what it is. Seeing this photo again, makes my heart lift to know this is what is to come and comparing this photo to the horrid mess our beds are in it gives me hope that this will improve with time. The paths we have just spent the past few weeks re-laying more bark chippings down as the chippings you see in this photo had rotted down to a mulch. Its a god-send that we get free chippings delivered to our site as it means we can walk on our plot whilst it is boggy without sinking in the sticky clay soil!
The promise of young veggies from previous years gives hope for this year when things seem a bit bleak. Here are my runner beans just starting to clamber up the frame. Photo taken last year I think.
And when it all gets too much and you start to loose heart, there is nothing better than snuggling up with a good old gardening book and a bowl of hot stew in front of the stove. (Kindling drying in front of the log-burner).
Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour of our allotments, not much to show this time of year but give it a month or a few more weeks even and things will start to improve, it won’t be long before veggies start to grow, the ground being ready for seeds and even as we speak buts are starting to develop on fruit bushes.
I’m sorry its taken so long to get these on here, I do have much nicer photos and ones of actual veggies growing but alas, not on my laptop, they are on hubby’s laptop or on a memory stick which he has ‘put away safely’.
Yesterday though, I harvested the last of the leeks which were still in the ground to get the bed hand weeded, along with the last of the beetroot both are now in the freezer and the last of the swede. We have parsnips to dig up and get in the freezer before I can tackle that bed and also celeriac and celery to clear harvest and not forgetting the tender young chicory which is currently being forced.