Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Spring On The Allotment - First Sowings - Turnips - Carrots

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - March Sunshine
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - March Sunshine


More Spring sowings on the allotment - while at the same time I try to reign in my impatience.

Peas - have sown some in cardboard tubes in a sheltered corner of the garden. But sowings on the allotment must wait until April! Or so I tell myself - wonder if I'll stick to that resolution?

Two crops that I feel can go in, with a reasonable chance of germination in 2 to 3 weeks, are Turnips and early Carrots.

Allotment Growing - Turnips - Veitches Red Globe

In line with my crop rotation plan, the Turnips have gone into the Brassica bed - this is where they belong. I'm trying a new variety this year, bought on eBay (reasonably priced and free postage) - from Just Seeds. Veitches Red Globe - which according to the seed packet - are "A small round variety with tender white flesh, ideal for sowing in Spring".

I've also sown one row of carrots in the Roots bed - where they will be followed later by Black Salsify and Leeks. A tried and trusted variety - Amsterdam Forcing.



Read more ......
Allotment Growing - Turnips

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday On The Allotment - The Cusp Of Spring

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - March 2017
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - March 2017


Had an enjoyable but routine morning on the allotment- mainly clearing ground ready for Spring sowing and planting.

Slightly overcast weather, but fairly warm, with glimpses of blue sky.

As mentioned in my previous posts, I'm restraining my natural impatience to get seeds in the ground, still a bit too early for most of them.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - March 2017

So I focussed on yet more preparation work. I continued clearing down some of the Winter Field Beans. Grown as green manure to cover the beds, retain nutrients and keep the weeds down a bit.

They are looking a bit bedraggled, after their sterling work over the Winter. Some are starting to flower, so I'm keeping some growing in the hope of collecting seed, to use next Autumn.

The bed that I cleared is earmarked for Black Salsify seeds in April, baby Leek plants in May and more Carrots. Plus maybe some new root crops, I try to sow something new and different each season. If you have any ideas, please post a comment.

I've also been thinking and planning ahead to next Autumn. My Strawberry bed is looking a bit tired and general advice is to move these every 3 or 4 years anyway. It is also quite weedy. I made a basic mistake when I first planted this bed up. I was in a hurry so didn't clear the weeds or apply mulch properly, so the weeds keep coming back.

New Strawberry Bed

So I've made a start on a new bed, next to the existing one on some ground that I've left fallow for the last couple of years. Or - maybe put more honestly - I didn't get round to / couldn't be bothered to clear and mulch! I'll post more on that as it develops. In particular, I've developed further interest in the "no dig" approach to creating new growing beds. I've found a few interesting blog posts and YouTube videos on this subject and different approaches. Watch this space.

Final note - on my favourite subject (maybe slight obsession!) of compost and composting. I'm clearing this area by cutting out the turf in small manageable slices, simply using my spade. I've found the best way to deal with these is to build a "turf pile" rather than add to the (already full) compost bin.

Turf Pile - Composting

So here is my growing pyramid of turf, next to the compost bins. This is full of thick grass roots, so I'll leave it for a couple of years to fully compost down, then add to the beds.

Final - final note - this is my latest little project - my "Living Willow Structure".

Living Willow Structure

I'm pretty excited about this - constructed and planted back in November - it is starting to grow! First leaves are appearing and so the willow must be rooting itself in. Again - more on progress in future blog posts.Keep coming back.



Read more ......
Growing Willow

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

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Friday, 17 March 2017

Chitting Sweet Peas - An Experiment

Chitting Sweet Peas
Chitting Sweet Peas


A couple of years ago I harvested some seed from our Sweet Peas - grown from bought seed - to see if they could be used for future years.

When I did my annual check and clear out of the seed drawer - I found some of these - labelled Autumn 2015.

Chitting Sweet Peas

A couple of years old, so rather than waste time sowing them, only to find they were no longer viable, I decided to try an experiment to see if they would still germinate.

So I tried "chitting" - getting them to sprout before sowing. To to this I placed some damp kitchen paper on a plate, popped the seeds on top, covered with more kitchen paper then sprinkled on a bit more water. I then added a bit more water, as needed to keep them damp, over the following week.

Chitting Sweet Peas

To my slight surprise, most of them did sprout small shoots. So I've now sown them in a container and placed in the porch to grow on indoors. We will see how they get on.

Worth growing for the lovely flowers alone - but I also plant some Sweet Peas with my eating peas - where they look nice but also encourage bees to come in and pollinate the crop.



Read more ......
Sowing Peas

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Spring On The Allotment - First Sowings - Potatoes

Allotment Growing - First Early Potatoes
Allotment Growing - First Early Potatoes


On thing that I have to remind myself of every Spring on the allotment is - be patient!

As the weather warms I am always tempted to get seeds in the ground as soon as possible - now!

I've learned from past experience that this does not always pay off. For example - for the last couple of years I've sown peas in early to mid March in the hope of an early crop. Only to be disappointed when they fail to germinate. Wait until April!

Allotment Growing - First Early Potatoes

But - some things can go in the ground now. The topic of how early to sow potatoes is a common source of discussion on the allotment. I get my first earlies into the ground in early March if the weather is reasonably ok. Shoots won't emerge for a good three or four weeks - and can be earthed up in any case - and so protected from any unexpected severe cold or frost.

Allotment Growing - First Early Potatoes

This year I've had a change from my usual favourite variety Charlotte - and have put in Pentland Javelin. Into trenches, then back-filled with soil, a few handfuls of chicken manure fertiliser added and finally a layer of compost.

With luck they may be ready for a first harvest in late June.



Read more ......
Storing Potatoes

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

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Allotment Growing

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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic

Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic
Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic


Garlic is a crop that can be planted in late Autumn or early Winter - in fact it should go in the ground then, not in Spring, as it needs a long time to grow.

The plants are Winter hardy and can grow on through the season.

One old saying goes:
"Plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest day."

In previous years I've planted my garlic out in November or December - but have had limited success with growing it on. My harvests have been small - with the bulbs often not fully developed and split into garlic cloves.

This may be because of the mild Cornish Winters - I read somewhere that the plants need a dose of really cold weather to help the bulbs to split and form cloves. It may also be because (as ever) - I've been cheapskating - saving money by buying my bulbs from the greengrocers, rather than a reputable (but relatively expensive) seed supplier.

Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic - Planting
So last year I decided to plant out early and got them into the ground in late September. I still got them from the greengrocer though - but chose a UK grown variety of Elephant Garlic. Nice fat cloves that I hope will grow well in our weather conditions.

Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic - November
By November they had sprouted leaves and established well. I kept them under net cloches to keep the birds off and provide a bit of protection from the Winter weather.

Winter Growing on the Allotment - Garlic - February
Last week I took off the cloche to give them more light and air - ready to grow on through Spring and Summer. I'm hoping for a harvest in June or July. The plants are still small, but looking pretty good. Also - since I harvested the last of my leeks and salsify - the only crop growing, apart from my green manure.

Things are moving on into Spring fast though. I've just ordered my First Early Seed Potatoes and Broad Bean Seeds. I hope to get those in the ground next weekend.



Read more ......
Autumn Allotment Jobs - Planting Garlic

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

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Allotment Growing

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spring Preparations on the Allotment - Compost - Part Two

 Allotment Growing - Spring  Preparations
Allotment Growing - Spring  Preparations


Compost is a cornerstone of the allotment - as I've mentioned in previous posts.

This Spring (says feeling slightly smug) - the work I've put in over the previous months will pay off, as I have all the bases covered.

In this and the previous blog posts I've talked about various aspects of compost and increasing the fertility of the allotment plot - including:
  • Compost (see previous post).
  • Manure
  • Green Manure
  • Leaf Mould
  • Bean Trench / Pea Trench
  • Comfrey
  • Nettle Fertiliser
All of these are broadly "organic" methods and use natural recycling to achieve results.



Allotment Growing - Manure
Manure
I've been lucky enough to acquire some manure this Winter - which I've stored in my third compost bin - for now. This looks already fairly well rotted - but I'll give it time to break down further. I'll use some in trenches on my planned pea bed.

Allotment Growing - Green Manure - Winter Field Beans
Green Manure
I've grown both Caliente Mustard and Winter Field Beans over Autumn and Winter, The Mustard has died back and been removed to the compost heap. I've also taken out some of the Beans, but will leave the rest in the ground until I'm ready to start sowing new crops in the beds.

Allotment Growing - Leaf Mould
Leaf Mould
I collected this in Autumn and its been breaking down in my leaf mould bin all Winter. This will need to break down further - so I'll leave it where it is until next Autumn. I'll then spread it onto the growing beds - a fantastic mulch and soil improver.

Allotment Growing - Bean Trench
Bean Trench / Pea Trench
I dug a trench back in November and filled it with the leftover stalks and leaves from my sweetcorn, plus some nettles. This will break down through Winter and Spring to help my French Beans to grow when sown in April or May.

Allotment Growing - Comfrey Fertiliser
Comfrey Fertiliser
I was given a couple of plants back in November by a neighbouring plot holder. The leaves will make a good liquid fertiliser. When there is enough growth I will cut the leaves and then soak them in water for 3 - 4 weeks until they break down.

Allotment Growing - Nettle Liquid Fertiliser
Nettle Fertiliser
I gathered nettles through last Spring and Summer and - as with Comfrey above - soaked them in water to make a natural liquid fertiliser. I'll do the same this year.

Allotment Growing - Winter
So - my late Winter preparations are going well and all looking good for Spring.

I can't wait to get sowing and planting.

Next to go in - Early Potatoes and Broad Beans.

Spring is coming!





Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

Visit my website - Allotment Growing
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Allotment Growing

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Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sunday On The Allotment - Sunday 5 March 2017

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - March
St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - March


Braving the changeable West Cornwall weather - wind and showers speeding over from The Atlantic - I headed out to my allotment this morning.

Wonderful to see more signs of Spring - yellow gorse flowers and daffodils out in the hedgerows.

Allotment Growing - Strawberries
Allotment Growing - Strawberries
My main task for today was yet another session clearing weeds from my Strawberry patch. Hard work and tedious but rewarding. I finally got the whole bed cleared and tidied up. Ready for the plants (hopefully) to spring into life this month.

Allotment Growing - Strawberries
Allotment Growing - Strawberries
Next I added a light dressing of compost, which should feed the plants and keep down the weeds a bit. Or maybe not - might encourage the weeds to grow! What I'm  hoping is that the Strawberries will outpace and outgrow the weeds - they usually do. Next week I'll add a sprinkling of chicken manure pellets to add a bit more nutrient to the soil.

Allotment Growing - Strawberries In Winter
Allotment Growing - Strawberries In Winter
For new growers - the plants do look a bit dead at this time of year. Do not worry - they will recover from Winter and start growing on soon as the weather warms.

Allotment Growing - Strawberries - New Growth
Allotment Growing - Strawberries - New Growth
If you look carefully, there are already signs of new green growth.
A promise of lovely fruit to come in June.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Late Winter
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Late Winter
Next weekend - I'll get my first early potatoes in the ground. I'll also sow some more Broad Beans. The beds are pretty much ready - just need a bit more clearing and tidying up.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Penwith Hills
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Penwith Hills
Final view from the plot in the sunshine as I headed for home. If you look carefully you can see the chimneys of the old tin mine engine houses up on the hill. As well as a sea view my allotment has lovely views over the Penwith Hills.


St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Penwith Hills
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Penwith Hills
If you look even more carefully you might even see Ross Poldark and Demelza galloping across the horizon! The show is filmed just up the coast around Botallack and Pendeen.