Thursday, 28 June 2007

Wait a minute Mr Postman ...

Hurray, the postman delivered a small package this morning, which turned out to be my Green Manures from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Having never grown Green Manures before, I've ordered a few different varieties to try. I've tried to avoid any that need to join the rotation plan. The garlic and over wintering onions were lifted recently, so there are two beds to plant up at the weekend - its going to be so hard to make a decision though .. maybe I'll plant half a bed of each !

Lucerne (Alfalfa)
This seed, which belongs to the clover family and is probably the best of the clovers, has many uses. It can be used to restore fertility in the garden by broadcasting at any time during the growing season from April to September. It is best to sow as early as possible as it is a little slow to establish itself. It has the quality of being able to stretch it's taproots to some depth and bring up the minerals from the subsoil. It is reputed to have certain mineral qualities which are very rare and peculiar to itself so it is being grown in pots and boxes, indoors and outdoors, and the shoots eaten in the same manner as cress with salads.

Sow at any time during the growing season, but does best when sown early. Can be broadcast or sown in drills, spacing the seeds about 2" apart and at a depth of .5" with 6" between the rows. If sown early in the season will provide a natural haven for the Hover Fly, the larvae of which feed on aphids, thus protecting your other crops. Can be grown on for green manure and dug in when tall enough or used for compost after it has flowered.

Sow between May and August at a depth of 3cm. A very quick growing nitrogen fixing green manure that will stand until the first frost, producing a valuable quantity of green manure.

Agricultural Lupins (Lupinus Angustifolius)
This is the Bitter Lupin which is used entirely for green manure or as a soil restorer. Being a large seed it is best sown in rows, placing the seed 3-4" apart at any time from April to July. It has a pleasant blue flower attractive to bees, but it can be dug in before flowering if the ground is required, or allowed to grow on to become tall and woody and used for composting.

A winter hardy annual for sowing between March and September. Broadcast 2grams per square metre and rake in. Cut down and dig in before flowering to prevent self seeding.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Look what I found ...

Whilst watering the peppers tonight, noticed that my Redskin pepper has it's first flower. It's a smaller plant than the others - will know next year to plant the other varieties at the back as they are much taller already - but looks as if it will be first to fruit.

Redskin flower copy

The three Sweet Olive Plum's have got plenty of flowers and quite a few small fruits forming. I need to think about how to support them better, as I've left them to bush out. They are more spindley than the other varieties, which I guess is either because the other varieties are being pinched out or the plants are naturally more spindley:
Sweet Olive Plum copy

I wonder when my Cristal is going to ripen. It's the biggest tomato I've got so far, but not a hint of red on any of them yet:
Cristal copy

Jobs for the weekend:

- Fashion supports for the Jerusalem Artichokes.
- Get better canes to support the sunflowers.
- Think about supporting the second broadies.
- Think about cutting down the first broadies which are now dying back.
- Hunt down the pest in the brick greenhouse that is eating mum's pepper.
- Plant out the Baby Bear - somewhere, anywhere, just plant it out. Poor thing.
- Support the poppy and tie in the sunflower by the herb garden.
- Sow green manures ... IF my order ever arrives in the post (unlikely if the strike goes ahead).
- Think about supports for the peppers (and aubergines).
- Sow some new parsley.
- Pick 9 million slugs out of the carrot bath ... how do they get in there.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

I ate my first raspberry at the weekend - it was slightly confusing though, as it is an Autumn variety ! I offered it to OH, but he declined it - I think he thought it looked a bit ratty, but I can confirm it was very tasty.

first raspberry copy

I'm really pleased with the greenhouse, the peppers and tomatoes are looking really healthy. I can't imagine the lottie without it now.

greenhouse copy

I've got four crystal lemon cucumbers growing in the brick greenhouse:

crystal apple cucumber copy

They didn't grow for ages when I planted them up, so I'm relieved that they've finally got going. I need to try and remember to give them some tomato feed I think at the w/e.

Here is one of my 'ball' courgettes - they have all started to produce fruit, so I can tell which are yellow, dark green and light green. Next door have promised to take some plants.

courgette copy

Here are my spring planted onions. They are looking a little bedraggled now with all of the rain we've been having lately. I am a little concerned that they might start to rot soon as it is so wet.

onions copy

They look so much healthier, stronger and bigger than the winter planted Japanese onions though, which I finally pulled at the weekend. They are pathetically small - my neighbour thinks they had a virus of some sort, as they had brown marks on the leaves.

One of my lesser spotted parsnips:
Parsnip copy

I'm so proud ...

my taddies are finally on the turn and they are soooo cute:

baby froggie copy

Have to be very careful now though when walking near the pond as they are popping up everywhere. They are at various stages of development, some with tails, some without but they all have the most delicious copper glint to them.

baby froggie 3 copy

babby froggie 2 copy

I do think some of them are a little ambitious though ... this little fella looks like he would be better off in the pond a bit longer.

baby froggie with tail copy

I've still got loads of tadpoles swimming around that don't even look as if they are thinking about developing legs yet.

Here's one of the adults that was very happy under the alpine strawberries until I accidentally disturbed him

froggie copy

Froggie 2 copy

The look so smooth from the front, but when you see them from the back they look quite warty and toady, but he's definitely a froggie:

Froggie 3 copy

Artichoke Heaven

well we finally took the plunge and after much research, prepared, cooked and ate our first lottie artichokes. Mmmmm, they were gorgeous - which is lucky as we have 20+ heads.

All of the plants are producing plump, green round heads, except for one plant, which is producing red tinged, more pointy artichokes. They were all sown from the same packet of seed, so don't think I have a different variety - may its a natural variation.

OH took some photos for me:

2007-06-23  Artichokes  005 copy

2007-06-23  Artichokes  006 Sharped Split Toned copy

2007-06-23  Artichokes  006 copy

2007-06-23  Artichokes  004 copy

The plants are just over a year old and are nearly as tall as me. I love the flowers, so will leave some heads on the plant. In the autumn I'm going to split them (they are multiplying like mad) and move some to the pond area, where they will be left to flower all the time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Rain, rain, rain ...

We've been deluged with rain and I've been very lucky not to have suffered any flood damage. Fortunately for me, my lottie is on a slope, but I know some of the sites locally have been submerged. Of course the weeds have gone absolutely barmy and the lottie is incredibly green and lush at the moment. My main crop potatoes are now mid-thigh in height !

Tigerella tomato:
tigerella tomato copy

Sweet Olive Plum:
sweet olive plum tomato copy

Well the courgettes have started production ... did I mention I'd planted all 10 of them. Next door are going to take some, once I've identified what colour they all are:

green courgette copy

yellow courgette

I decided to crop some peas this afternoon and was muttering to myself about the state of the peas and how they need more protection than a flipping pop star and how I might not bother with them next year as they are such a pain - protecting them from the meices, from the frost, from the pigeons etc, etc when I looked down at the trug and noticed that it was nicely full ! So tonight we are having risotto for tea - with peas, broad beans, the newly cropped garlic, my first Japanese onion and my first three baby courgettes (two green and one yellow). Must have sounded yummy, as some friends have decided to come too. Think I'll roast one of last years butternut squashes to go with it.

Emporer beans are curling around the canes nicely:
emperor beans copy

Half of my garlic has been dried in the brick greenhouse and looks absolutely gorgeous now that the ratty rusty leaves have been taken off. Lifted the other half this afternoon:
garlic 1 copy

lavender copy

Dill's Atlantic Giant looks to have it's first fruit appearing. Undecided yet as to whether I will let it grow lots of pumpkins, or take off all but two to see whether I can beat last year's Big Max:
dills atlantic giant copy

more wildlife:

Red Bottomed Bee (I think):
red bottom bee copy

A greeney-blue damsel fly and a red damsel fly were flitting around the pond this afternoon. The greeney-blue one was laying eggs in the water:
greeney blue damsel fly copy

anyone know what this bug is ?
funny green bug on alpine strawberry copy

The blackberry bushes are covered in flowers and bees - the hedgerows are lovely on our allotments and attract a lot of wildlife:
bumble bee on blackberry flower copy

another ladybird, think its the same one as below:
black ladybird copy

Along came a spider ... he is huge, so it seems fitting he was on the globe artichoke:
IMG_0122 copy

I'm thinking of setting up another blog site just with the lottie wildlife, it's quite varied and my new camera is taking some cracking shots for me (its a Canon Ixus 850 IS for those who are interested - the IS (image stabiliser) is the magic bit)).

Friday, 15 June 2007

all change

Thought I'd try a new layout / colour scheme, hope you like it. Please let me know if any of the links etc are not working ... I've had to rebuild some of the site and my technical ability is somewhat limited !

The weather has been dreadful for the last couple of days, it has been absolutely bucketing down for 48+ hours. The lottie should be OK as it is on a slope, but there has been loads of localised flooding.

Despite the rain however, the greenhouse plants still need watering - people look at me like I'm mad when I tell them I've been to water the lottie ! On Wednesday evening I was running around the plot, getting soaking wet, cutting the sweetpeas which are flowering prolifically at the moment.

How's this for irony, we spent a couple of hours watering the plot and filling the water butts up last Sunday. Oh well, at least the pond will be full again.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Flaming June ?

Tomatoes have started to appear - here is my first Cristal. I popped in tonight to water (even though it was bucketing down outside) and most of the plants are now developing fruit. Must remember to feed them at the w/e - this one is double the size already from when the photo was taken. The pepper plants are looking really strong and healthy too. Cristal copy

I added some shading to the greenhouse last weekend to protect the plants from the sun and took the advice of my lottie neighbour to leave the door fully open (day and night). Another job for the weekend will be adding string supports to all of the tomatoes. The aubergines in the potting shed are looking quite happy and the crystal lemon cucumbers have finally stopped sulking and started to grow - but I think it'll be a while before I get any fruit from them.

My Sunshine Blueberry bush seems quite happy and is laden with berries. I've put it in front of the greenhouse to help shade the tomatoes.
Blueberries copy

I'm really pleased with my melons. The addition of perspex and glass seems to be keeping them warm enough and they've started to put on some growth and are now flowering. Here is Temptation:
Temptation copy

The sweet potatoes have started to put on growth. I'm not so sure that I've got their position right though. I was thinking that the greenhouse would keep them warm, but actually they end up being shaded by it and because the allotment is on a slight slope they are planted in a bit of a dip. Will definitely have to think about a better place to put them next year. They look a little weedy, but they'll soon get going. They are planted under black landscape material to help retain heat. The 'parent' potatoes are still producing slips, its getting a little late to plant them, as they like a long season, so I may put them into a pot in the greenhouse as an experiment.

Sweet potatoes copy

Both of the Sunshine Squashes have both got their first fruit on, even though the plants are still tiny:
sunshine squash copy

Looks like my first sunflower won't be long now - I've planted 16 (2 have been eaten) and 2 more have self sown themselves:
2007-06-09  Allotment  026 copy

This is the seed head from the King Cup that lives in the pond:
King cup seed head copy

Some more wildlife - I'm becoming obsessive about ladybird varieties at the moment:

7-Spot Ladybird:
7 Spot crop copy

2-Spot Ladybird:
two spot ladybird copy

Melanic 2-spot Ladybird
IMG_0066 copy

IMG_0062-Edit copy

Bumble bee on comfrey ... have just discovered that the empty lottie next door has a huge clump of comfrey - shall be liberating a leaf or two once the flowers have died away:
Bee on comfrey copy

Bugs on a dandelion clock:
Buggy clock one copy

Favourite Froggie:
froggie on a rock copy

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Bring it on !

Couldn't resist any longer ... here are my first Rocket. I expected to find very, very small potatoes, so was pleasantly surprised (and a little shocked) by their size. Will start to lift them regularly:

1st tatties of 2007 copy

Also cut my first sweetpeas tonight - their scent filled the car with the most divine perfume.

The plants in the greenhouse are looking pretty good and I was relieved to see that the soil still looked pretty damp (last watered on Sunday morning). The tomatoes are all in flower and I'm sure I can see the start of a flower on one of the peppers. I definitely need to put shading up at the weekend though, as it's been incredibly hot this week. Both automatic openers are working (hurray) and I just need to make a decision on whether to leave the door closed, half open or open ... or maybe a bit open ? If only I had a crystal ball and knew exactly what the weather was going to be like.

The courgettes and squashes are looking very put out - couple of yellow leaves have appeared. Am hoping that is just because we had a couple of cooler days last week. Maybe I'll treat them to a dose of 'wet dog' if they don't pick up. Hopefully they will soon pick up - the Sunshine squashes have already got flowers and the start of a first fruit. The Edonis melon has been steadily munched, I think by slugs, it probably won't survive - still the other two are looking really strong and healthy. I have my fingers crossed.

Looky at my carrots - the red dragon's are beautiful (sadly orange inside though). If they manage to avoid the carrot fly, the bath will have been really successful. They certainly look as if they have potential to grow quite big - the roots are lovely and long. Next year I intend to add more compost so that it is level with the top of the bath and then I'll get even longer / bigger carrots ! Wonder if I can get hold of another bath ... I can see its going to become one of my most treasured lottie assets.

Carrots copy