Monday, 28 March 2011

Time To Plant Out

Last year was the first year that I've grown shallots. Even though they were planted out late they gave me a good crop, so this year I want to make sure that I do everything right and maybe I'll get an even better crop. I've gone for Sante which are supposed to have a good flavour. Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year, 21st of December, and harvested on the longest day of the year, 21st of June, but as the ground was frozen solid at that time, and for quite a while after, I started my shallots in pots in the greenhouse. They have put out some good strong roots and are starting to shoot so I will plant them out at the allotment within the next week.

The everbearing strawberries - Flamenco which I had delivered from Thompson and Morgan earlier in the year are not doing so well. I ordered twelve plants, and potted them up as soon as they arrived in to plantpots which have been kept in the greenhouse ever since. Out of the dozen plants, only seven are showing signs of life. I've emailed Thompson and Morgan and had a speedy reply saying they will replace the dead plants in October. This isn't the first time that plants bought from Thompson and Morgan have died, however, they have always been quick to replace anything I'm not happy with. It's a shame I won't get the replacements until October though, I was looking forward to a bumper harvest this year.

I've been reading of bumblebee sightings on many blogs recently. I was feeling quite left out having not seen any yet this year, but on my way home from taking Archie for a walk I heard a buzzing noise and there was my first sighting of the year. I saw my second butterfly of the year last week, another Red Admiral, and I'm continuing to see many ladybirds. I'm sure this gorgeous weather we're experiencing has something to do with everything waking up from their winter slumber.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Speedy Seeds

Believe it or not, these seeds were sown on Sunday and less than forty eight hours later there's signs of life. I did quite a bit of sowing on Sunday, Swiss chard-Bright Lights, kale-Cavolo de Nero, broccoli-Summer Purple, calabrese-Sakura, Brussels sprout-Evesham Special, cabbage-Tundra, curly kale-Dwarf Green Curled, and swede-Ruby. I also sowed some flower seeds, most of these will be used at the allotment for my cutting patch. Calendula-Candyman Yellow, aster-Lazy Daisy Mix, gazania-Sunshine Mixed, cosmos-Picotee, cornflower-Frosty Mix, zinnia-Early Wonder, zinnia-Scabious Flowered Mixed, rudbeckia-Rustic Dwarf Mixed, and rudbeckia-Toto Gold. The photo is zinnia-Early Wonder, it's certainly living up to it's name so far. Some carrot-Paris Market 5 - Atlas were also sown in to a container and popped in to the greenhouse. I'm hoping to have some stumpy carrots just in case I can't get any carrots to germinate at the allotment again. I'm listing all the varieties on my blog this year as this will be the first time ever that I haven't made written notes. I find it quite time consuming to write everything down as I do it, so I'm using my blog for this purpose instead.

I had a trip to my local nursery on Sunday and bought some compost in readiness for all the sowing which is to be done. I'm also hoping to get my early potatoes in to containers over the next week or two so I also need compost for that. I usually use a mix of multi purpost compost and my own garden compost for potatoes, and even those which go in the ground at the allotment get some garden compost put in with them at planting time. I still need to buy my onions so I shall have another trip to the nursery soon.

I think spring has finally sprung. The weather over the last few days has been glorious and it looks set to continue here for the next couple of days. All this sunshine has woken up the ladybirds, I've seen them in abundance and on Friday I saw my first butterfly of the year, a Red Admiral.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Chitting Nicely

It won't be long now until I plant my first early potatoes. I've decided that this year all the earlies will go in containers which will free up more space at the allotment for maincrop potatoes. The other advantage of using containers rather than the ground is that I don't have to wait for the ground to warm up, though I will have to make sure that they are kept free of any frost we have. As you can see, there are some great sprouts on the tubers already. Apparently, if you rub off all but two or three of the sprouts you will get larger potatoes, but I always leave all the sprouts on as I don't mind smaller potatoes.

I sowed my leeks - Musselburgh and peas - Hurst Green Shaft on Saturday. I've always sown my peas in toilet roll inners in the past but this time I've sown them in modules. I didn't have as much success last year with things which were sown in the toilet roll inners so I'm not using them at all this year. Once the ground has warmed up I want to sow some peas direct, something which I haven't done before.

The Goldfinches are back. I haven't seen any for ages but I saw a pair on Monday. I just wish I saw them more regularly than I do at the moment, they're such lovely little birds. We've also got some Coal Tits visiting the feeders, another colourful little bird.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


We called in to Lidl at the weekend, a shop I rarely go to, but I know they sell fruit bushes at very reasonable prices so we thought we'd have a look. At the moment, the only fruit we have at the allotment are strawberries, though as we only have half a plot I don't want to give too much space over to fruit. There were various currants and a gooseberry to choose from and we came away with a blackcurrant bush for the princely sum of £1.49, bargain. I've also got my two rhubarb crowns, which are at present in containers, to plant at the allotment, and also my two blueberry bushes which will stay in containers in the garden, so that will do us for now.

After a sunny start to the week, the weather yesterday and today has been dreadful. We had rain and wind yesterday, and though it's quite sunny today, the wind is really bad. Half of my greenhouse is missing so I'll have to go and hunt that down. I think I'll wait for the wind to drop though first otherwise I'll be repeating the exercise within the hour.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Signs Of Life

At last, my peppers have started germinating. I don't have much patience when waiting for seeds to pop their heads above the compost, these have taken just short of two weeks to show any sign of life. I've now turned off the bottom heat to avoid the seedlings growing leggy, and I'll pot them on when they've put on some growth.

We finally saw some sunshine on Sunday so hubby was straight down to the allotment to put a bit of time in doing some digging. It won't be long now until the clocks go forward and the days are longer. I've always enjoyed spending time at the allotment on an evening, it always seems so peaceful at that time of day.

Just a reminder that Gardener's World is back on our screens on Friday with Monty Don coming back as the main presenter. The programme will come from Monty's own garden in Herefordshire. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Spring Days Out

I'm looking forward to some great spring days out at RHS Harlow Carr, I must remember to mark them in my diary so that I don't miss them. As a RHS member I'm entitled to free admission, as is one other family member, which makes it a cheap day out. On 26th and 27th March there is a Grow Your Own Weekend, 9th to 21st April is Eco Warriors - Half term family fun, which I thought my daughter might like as there are scavenger hunts, bush craft and the chance to learn survival skills. From 29th April to 2nd May is Harlow Carr Craft Exhibition, I might go on 1st May as there is also a Spring Plant Fair on then. If you're not a RHS member there is a FREE Open Day tomorrow, 4th March, where admission is free to everyone, the gardens are definitely worth seeing.

There's no sign of life in my peppers which I sowed eleven days ago. There's time yet, though I've usually had them germinating quicker than this on previous occasions. Perhaps I'll sow some more if they're not showing by the weekend.

We saw a kestrel in next door's garden earlier today. It was sat on their lawn as bold as brass eating whatever prey it had managed to kill. After it had left, there was a mass of feathers left behind, which indicates the prey was a bird of some kind. The circle of life can be very cruel sometimes.
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