Wednesday, May 02, 2012

It's been a funny year so far

This is the first post I have done since I decided to move cooking and gardening posts over here so I just use one blog. I'm just not blogging enough to have more than one at the moment and I figure one blog with posts reasonably often is better than two or three with occasional posts.

 Mostly tomatoes, cucumbers

This is very much a catch up post about growing things this year. I recently found the 2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge over at Sustainable Eats which sounds like a lot of fun and very much in tune with what I am trying to do this year. I missed Feb and March though I might go back and look at those but was just in time to touch on April's challenges which were all about gardening so I thought I'd do a run down of where we are at on such things. In case anyone reading this doesn't know we have a very small back garden but are fortunate enough to have an allotment which for none Brits is a rented garden for growing veg, fruit and flowers as well as sometimes keeping some small livestock. Allotments are a part of our history here and even have a requirement in law for councils to provide them if people want them !

So why the title well mostly funny in a weather sense. Early spring was very warm mild and sunny, before Easter it was like mid summer and we had barely turned the heating on all winter. Easter brought us threats of hard frosts and snow though the second never arrived. Since then we have had rain. Literally a month of rain but because we have been in a rain deficit for nearly two years the ground water and reservoirs are still very low. The ground on the allotment was starting to crack before Easter and now it is like a bog, I dug into the flower bed a few inches and found a lake under the ground, that's clay for you !

Still things are growing using up that water I'm just hoping it slows down a little soon so they don't drown in the ground. Rain is good and needed but too much just floods rather than seeping into the ground to leave a reserve for later.

So far this year the autumn planted onions and elephant garlic is looking good as are the garlic, shallots and multiplier onions from the Heritage seed library though I'm not sure what the difference is between those last two. All of these are covered in mesh or fleece currently as allium leaf miner has made it's way to our allotments and this is one of the two times of year it is flying about. I hope the mesh will stop the adults getting to the alliums and I can remove it soon once they are in the larva stage, hopefully not in my plants !  It will need to go back again on any alliums like leeks in the autumn when the second wave of adults emerge.

There are also broad beans some of which are starting to flower and I have got some but not all the potatoes in with some peas in between the varieties as my new companion planting book suggests they go well together.  I held off over Easter due to the dire weather reports and then the rain hit it has been a matter of dodging the rain and trying to plant them without damaging the ground too much or drowning the tubers. So far I have planted Red Duke of York (our favourite so far to grow), Emerald Vale and Ezekiel Blue.  We also have a row of scarlet oca this year which will be interesting. I put them at one end of the bed as you don't dig them till November ! Very much a first for us.

I also have a bed of Jerusalem artichokes coming up nicely, you can see which bit I dug up and replanted and which bit I missed as one end is much more random. There are random radishes and turnips in between various things and my kale is still just about hanging in there. We have found out we love kale flowers, Tom said they are much better than sprouting broccoli and if you leave them till the flowers actually open they are amazingly sweet. The flower buds are sweeter than the sprouting broccoli too.

The strawberries are growing well and starting to flower, the gooseberries are already starting to swell and the currents are on their way too so lots of netting to be done soon. The raspberries need clearing out rather as does the end of the blackberry run I didn't do early.  I have some more pot grown gooseberries and currents to plant out as well as a Tayberry but I've been hardening them off as they were sprouting in the warmth of the shop. The Apple trees are interesting, the crab apple which has flowered really well the last couple of years barely has a flower, perhaps it wanted a colder winter where as the young eating apple trees are all covered in flowers so fingers crossed they produce some apples this year ! The established tree is a late variety so is still at the budding stage, I'm told by those who have been on the allotments for years it fruits every other year and last year was a no apple year, with lots the previous year which was before we had the plot so I'm hoping it runs true to form and we get lots this year too. The damson has flowered well but needs pruning as some branches have died back but that may have been due to moving it last year, being a member of the plum family it should always be pruned in leaf rather than in the winter like an apple would.

 Squashes herbs and one bought in pepper

I have done much better at getting seeds started this year that last, not moving everything from one plot to another helps. Most of my over wintered Dalias are sprouting nicely and the few I left in the ground proved I was right to dig most of them up as they have rotted away. There is a lovely pot of carrots growing well in the greenhouse and lots and lots of tomatoes. The ones in the photo at the top of the post are only a few of those I have grown! I also have a variety of squashes, both winter and summer, cucumbers, various herbs, some sweetpeas and french beans and various flowers in the greenhouse or house. Our house is not the best for starting seeds as there is very little space with good light, after reading lots of other blogs this year I'm tempted to try and set up some grow light next year.

I have lots of seeds ready to go and am just waiting till the forecasts are full of warnings of flooding as that much rain will just wash them all away. I am planning on various wild flowers ad similar to encourage pollinators this year as well as veg and we always grow some heritage seeds from the seed library as we are members. This year I am also planning to grow a couple of types of amaranth which I've never grown before and some achocha, this year outside. Last year I did grown some but it was in the greenhouse and none of the fruits developed but everything in the greenhouse struggled last year, even tomatoes did better outside than in which is highly unusual but I think the light levels were very low and just that extra barrier of glass must have been a step to much.

One of the final challenges for the month was about chickens which we don't have currently however we are in the process of putting up a coop so watch this space. Noddles has decided we are having bantams and he wants Pekins which our local chicken farm do in a good few colours, they also sell silkies so I'm tempted to get a couple of those plus 2 or 3 smaller hybrids to give us a base level on egg production. The chickens are going to be in the back garden so I'm loosing what little flower bed I had but it was to shady to grown much and this way the boys can be fully involved in looking after them, we could keep them at the allotment but they would be more at risk and have less contact with us up there so for now at least in back garden it is.

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