An hours digging makes a big difference!
As we had a few rain free hours I thought it was time to see how the allotment was looking. I hadn’t been since collecting some sprouts for Christmas dinner so wasn’t expecting much. We’d had rain almost daily for a few weeks as well, although nowhere near what most of the country experienced.
Unlike 12 months earlier there was no standing water, which was a pleasant surprise. The site was a bit scruffy, but a lot better than I imagined it may be. A bit of weeding was obviously needed so the broad beans bed was carefully attended to. Almost 100% germination success on the beans so there should be a good harvest in May.
The leeks and kale were looking good so I harvested some. I probably should have taken precautions and netted the kale as pigeons had stripped the first foot of foliage on every plant. Still plenty left though, so I shouldn’t begrudge them a winter meal. Brussels sprouts are still growing well but I left them for another day. Swiss Chard is still looking good over winter but I can’t think of a palatable way of eating it! I dug up what was left of the beetroot but it looked like wood so it went in the compost bin.
I gave some of the bare ground a quick dig over in preparation for the anticipated planting season. I also planted a load of field beans back in September as ‘green manure’ so time will tell how effective that will be.
I am overwintering some chillies in the shed to hopefully give them a head start. A couple are moribund but the rest are getting new growth so I gave them a splash of water and moved a couple into the house.
I’m looking forward to getting some seeds on the go in the next few weeks. Indoors obviously. I must have bought 70 packs of various seeds over the winter so definitely won’t have room for everything.
I am feeling very optimistic for a decent harvest this year.
My nephew Mark texted in September 2012 to say he’d been allocated an allotment by the local council so I was quite enthusiastic to help out and get some free veg. Little did I realise the huge task ahead.
The allotment site was new (actually it was already allotments until 25 years ago) and incredibly overgrown. No running water, electricity or amenities on the site so everything was to be done by hand. With the use of a weed whacker and shears it was more or less levelled in a day, looking a hell of a lot better. The next task was to try and till the soil. In hindsight a petrol digger would have been a great idea as the ground was full of bramble and tree roots. The best ground was in the middle so we decided to start small with a 8′ x 12′ veg bed. Digging wasn’t too bad here although removing the roots was a tedious task. The soil looked good quality without the roots. Half a tub of chicken manure and it was ready to go. So far so good…
I had already decided that growing veg at home would be a worthwhile task, despite my lack of knowledge or skill. I had already cultivated some baby cabbages, kale and broccoli though so these were the first crops for the new allotment bed. I bought some cheap fleece tunnels to hopefully keep the pests off and expected nature to do the rest and expected to be eating fresh veg over the winter. Unfortunately the 2012/13 winter was appalling.
The fleece tunnels, which seemed a great idea, were ripped to bits by strong winds in December. The wettest winter I can remember meant that the plot was underwater for about 3 months and the remaining brassicas were finished off by pigeons over the winter. We had constructed a mesh fence and installed compost bins by now so, despite the disastrous crop, decided to continue as spring and summer would hopefully produce the results we wanted.
In March 2013 Charlotte seed potatoes were planted. We bought a cheap small shed and had some fun putting it together. Gutter, downpipe & water butt soon followed. We extended the bed to the full length of the allotment and planted onion sets in April. In May, Leeks, beetroot, chard, cabbage, cauliflower & kale went in (covered by netting this time, see below).
By June the potatoes were looking good and tasted great as well. We had a few weeks of quality spuds, regretting growing only the one early variety – lesson learnt for next time. Dwarf beans, Cape Gooseberries, chinese cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and sweetcorn had also been added by this stage and everything was looking great.
By far the most impressive crop was the dwarf French beans. Easy to grow and prolific for a couple of months this was easily the favourite veg and we will grow a lot more this year. Runner Beans – I planted about 6 beans in June and they grew like wildfire. A lot nicer than I remember them being (as a kid) and they produced far more than we could eat.
The sweetcorn looked fantastic due to the perfect summer and the cobs were delicious. I made a schoolby error in growing different varieties and couldn’t tell them apart so they ended up all shapes and sizes.
Chard looks great in the plot but to be honest I don’t like the taste or texture. Shame because it’s easy and doesn’t really get pests. Beetroot was small but good quality. The caterpillars had a good feast on the kale but there was still plenty left over winter. The cauliflowers were a disaster, not enough water I’m assuming as the florets bolted and they ended up in the compost bin. I’ve just remembered harvesting a lot of asparagus peas as well. Easy to grow, look nice but there is a fine line between edible and inedible. You have to eat them when they are only an inch long.
The Cape Gooseberries looked really impressive growing but didn’t ripen. Better under glass I think as they are tender. The Chinese cabbage grew well and didn’t seem to attract too many pests but the Brussels sprouts were also ravaged by caterpillars.
September came and I decided we needed some fruit. We dug a 5 foot wide bed all the way along the fence and planted 2 dwarf apples and a dwarf pear tree. I also added a huge row of onion sets in the same bed to overwinter for an early 2014 crop, along with some garlic cloves.
In November we cleared most of the main bed. I added some raspberries, blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry plants all along the same fence as the apple & pears. I’m hoping it will be easy enough to make a big fruit cage over the lot when required!
I also added a couple of raised beds, one is planted with broad beans and in the other I’ll try growing carrots in spring.
We planted some rhubarb crowns but couldn’t really tell which way up they should go so time will tell if they grow.
The site is now 75% cultivated and we have plenty of room to try new stuff this year. 10kg of 4 different varieties of seed potatoes are on order and I have peas, spinach and rhubarb overwintering in the shed.
I can’t wait to get properly started this year!
A long day but the anticipation of another 3 points to the Blue Boys made it seem worthwhile. 9.30am departure from the Nethy accompanied by 8 cans of Speckled Hen and some cheese spread butties. 5 hours later we were dropped at the Liberty Stadium for the big game. A couple of Carlings and a very decent curry pie and we were ready for kick off.
We had great speck, near the front and almost behind the goal. Standing is compulsory for EFC away games now but it was a cold day and it was nice to keep the feet moving.
My first thought when the Blues came out was that Naismith was starting then I realised that Barkley had gone for an extreme skinhead. A good, strong starting line up with a good bench made us very confident.
The first half was forgettable, both teams happy to keep possession with tidy short passing but neither team looked likely to break the deadlock. Second half was much in the same vein until Seamus Coleman stunned everybody with a pearler. Swansea were happy to let him have the ball 25 yards out so he ruthlessly twatted it into the top corner.
5 minutes later Everton conceded a comedy own goal. The excellent Oviedo was unfortunate in deflecting a weak shot out of the reach of Howard. That looked like the end of the action until McCarthy stormed forward and was taken out 25 yards from goal. Suddenly Naismith took a stunning free kick which clipped the bar on it’s way in and surprised everybody until we realised it was actually the bald headed Barkley who hit it. Cue pandemonium, ‘limbs’ everywhere and a very happy travelling mob.
The journey home was even longer due to the weak bladders of the teenage contingent on the minibus but at least we refuelled with San Miguel at a Waitrose service stop. Arrival home was 5 minutes after the towels had gone on at the Nethy but all in all it was a good day out.
Onwards and upwards!