Saturday, 29 December 2012

December Odd Jobs

Blue Skies - St Ives Cornwall - December 2012
After days of heavy rain the skies finally cleared in St Ives late this morning.

I was anxious to get out and do a few small jobs - but decided to do a bit in the garden. Then maybe head out to the allotment tomorrow - weather permitting. The allotment parking area is prone to flooding - so hopefully the break in the weather will allow it to drain a bit .....

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 9 Dec - Winter Is Coming

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment
It was pretty cold - with a bit of watery sunshine - out on my St Ives allotment today. A reminder that Winter is on the way. The Solstice is only two weeks away - at least the days will slowly start to get longer.

So - I limited myself to a brief tour of inspection. There is not really much to do for now - my hard work getting the plot in shape over the last few weeks has paid off ....

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Creature Feature - A Mysterious Burrow

St Ives Allotment - Animal Burrow
As I was conducting my usual inspection of the plot last Sunday - I noticed something new and unusual.

There was a pile of newly dug earth at the side of one of my beds.

At first sight it looked like a rabbit or similar creature had been digging about. Or maybe I had a mole in residence ! ......

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 25 Nov - Rain Stops Play

St Ives Allotment
I headed out as usual this morning for my Sunday visit to my St Ives Cornwall allotment.

A pretty bleak morning - after the torrential rain we've had in Cornwall over the last few days I decided to limit myself to a tour of inspection. The ground was too wet to do much else.

At least we're probably better off than many allotment holders - our site is pretty well draining and there wasn't too much standing water - apart from in the car park - as usual ! ......

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Growing Willow

Willow - St Ives Allotments
Willow is an absolutely wonderful thing to grow - it looks beautiful - is easy to establish and manage - and has some useful functions. It is also highly productive, sustainable and grows well in most conditions.

I'm growing it all around the edge of my allotment plot in St Ives. I'm aiming - eventually - to create a windbreak as well as an ornamental boundary. Strong winds - particularly from the West - are a persistent problem on our site ......

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Composting Starts At Home

St Ives Allotment - Compost Bins
Compost is one of the most important elements of any allotment or garden. Its obviously a good way of recycling waste - but also provides a fantastic resource.  Given a bit of time and care - free fertiliser and soil improver for the vegetable and fruit beds.

I'm planning a series of posts on the topic

I currently have two compost bins on the allotment - but I'm starting starting with Composting At Home - before I move onto what I do out on the plot ......

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autumn Growing - Peas - Backup Plans

Autumn Sowing Peas
In October I did a post about:
Autumn Growing - Peas

I sowed four rows of peas out on the allotment under fleece cloches.

It may be my background in business analysis and project management - but I am a great believer in backup plans when it comes to growing. Some of the seeds sown in the ground - whatever the conditions in the garden or allotment - may fail to germinate or grow on ......

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 18 Nov - Strawberries

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment With A Sea View
I woke up to a brilliant sunny morning in St Ives Cornwall. A bit chilly - but nowhere near as cold as last night's weather forecast predicted.

My usual three mugs of tea and several cigarettes to get started.

Followed by a warming breakfast of porridge with golden syrup and honey - ready to head out to my allotment ......

Friday, 16 November 2012

Autumn Growing - Potatoes

St Ives Cornwall Allotments
Back in March I planted my seed potatoes out on the plot - Home Guard first earlies - and like everybody else looking forward to a lovely crop of new potatoes in June.

Then - again like everybody else - the awful weather caused poor growth - then blight - and a rubbish crop that fed us for about 2 meals.

I harvested what I could and cleared the plot. In August I noticed that a few plants had re-emerged - this is normal as its almost impossible to clear a bed entirely of potatoes. I decided to let them grow on a bit on the off chance that I might get a small second harvest. In September I did indeed get a few more of eatable size out - then sowed Mustard Green Manure ......

Monday, 12 November 2012

Autumn Growing - Broad Beans

Autumn Sown Broad Beans
Last month I wrote a post about -
Autumn Sowing - Broad Beans.

Four weeks on - and the beans are doing well. They have almost all germinated and are growing on nicely on my St Ives Cornwall allotment.

But - as the pic shows - this weekend the bed was in urgent need of weeding - so I got that done yesterday .......

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 11 Nov - Odd Jobs

A beautiful sunny morning out on the St Ives (Cornwall) allotments.

I headed out mid-morning to get a few jobs done and to generally enjoy pottering about in the Autumn sunshine.

I started with a cigarette and my usual tour of inspection - and things are looking fairly good.

The peas are still growing on well - under their protective fleece cloche.

A bit of weeding will be needed in a week or two - but otherwise all fine ..........

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Leaf Mould - A Free Resource

In a previous post I wrote about making leaf mould (leaf mold) from the fallen leaves in my garden:
October - Making Leaf Mould

When I was on one of my regular walks out to the fields - below the Penwith Hills north of St Ives - I noticed just how many fallen leaves there were along the path. Suddenly the light bulb went on in my head - free compost !

There is nothing I like more than free stuff and this was a fairly obvious one.

After that I took a couple of black plastic bin bags with me every time I went out - and filled them up.

These were mostly deciduous leaves - from the trees lining the boundary of St John's In The Fields Church and Vicarage ......

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Growing Giant Pumpkins

As things get quieter on the allotment I'm planning some posts looking back over the growing season.

As has been mentioned many many time here and on other allotment blogs - it hasn't been an easy season here in the UK and Cornwall. Wet and cold weather has persisted through the Summer, though Autumn here in Cornwall hasn't been too bad.

One thing I've had a bit of success with is growing pumpkins and squash.

These included Giant American Pumpkins that I wanted to grow especially for Halloween. Or maybe that should be "Pumpkin" singular - as in the end only one survived to become a magnificent Halloween lantern ! Read On ......

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 4 Nov - Tidying Up

A slightly bleak but beautiful day out on St Ives Allotments on the edge of the Penwith Hills. I headed out west late morning into uncertain weather.

Today's plan was to do a bit of general tidying up, sort out and clear one of the beds where I harvested pumpkins last week and check progress on the Autumn sowings.

The skies soon cleared to blue and the sun came out to cheer my mood further. I've not been able to get out on the plot for a week - due to a combination of car problems and website projects that needed finishing.

Both now sorted - for now. So time to enjoy some time out on the allotment ......

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Green Manure - Mustard

Green manures are sown onto beds after the main crop of vegetables has been harvested - usually in late Summer and early Autumn.. They are not intended to produce another crop to eat - but do deliver some really worthwhile benefits.

They suppress weed growth and hold nutrients in the soil that might be washed away by Autumn and Winter rains. Some - particularly if from the bean family of plants - actually add fertility to the soil by fixing nitrogen - just like beans grown to eat. When they have done their work, start to flower or die back - they can either be dug into the soil to improve its structure, or provide a useful addition to the compost heap.

Finally - my personal view - I prefer to at least have something growing on my plot rather than empty beds. As long as it adds to the plot within broadly "green" principles - I'm keen on a Stakhanovite level of allotment plot productivity that would put a Stalinist collective farm commissar to shame ! ........

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Autumn Sowing - Peas - Germination

Autumn Sowing - Peas
An update on the peas that I sowed just over 2 weeks ago on Saturday 13th October. I chose Autumn sowing variety Meteor and planted the seeds in shallow drills under a fleece cloche.......

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunday On The Allotment - 28 Oct - Pumpkins and Squash

It was pretty bleak this morning out on the St Ives Allotments site on the edge of the Penwith Hills - although the views over the sea and hills were as lovely as ever. Autumn is now well underway in West Cornwall and I've been attending to the last of my meagre harvest.

Its the weekend before Halloween - and so the traditional time to bring in the final harvest of pumpkins and squash. 

I've had some success growing these this year. I sowed Squash - Winter Golden and Pumpkin - Mars in pots back in May, then planted them out on the allotment in June.

I also grew a couple of Giant Pumpkins - more on those in a future post.

They are not going to grow on much more - so I've cut the fruit from the plants and brought them back home to the garden. I'll now leave them outdoors for a few days to allow the skins to dry out (if the rain stops !) for better winter storage.

I'll be looking up some different recipes this year - pumpkin and squash can be a bit bland if not cooked with some imagination. I'll also use one or two for Halloween lanterns.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Chilli Pepper - Harvest

Back in May I planted a few chilli pepper seeds in pots in the mini-greenhouse (£9.99 from Poundland Penzance !).

I chose two varieties - Jalapeno as a reliable cropper - Padron (labelled as 'The Tapas Chilli') to try something new. Also - I love Tapas and had visions of looking up recipes and creating some wonderful dishes.

Both germinated ok - but the Padron plants failed to thrive - whether due to the lousy cold weather or due to  a certain amount of neglect on my part I'm not sure. Two of the Jalapeno plants grew on well though  although somewhat "leggy".

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Leaf Mould

October is the time to think about making some leaf mould (or leaf mold - for my North American readers) - making good use of all the fallen leaves on the ground at this time of year.

I'm in the process of tidying up my little garden in St Ives, somewhat neglected after all the time I've spent on my allotment plot lately. My wife Jo has also put in a fair bit of work.

We have a small evergreen tree that seems to shed leaves constantly onto the lawn. I confess - I'm not sure what it is - I think some sort of Tulip Tree. Please feel free to enlighten me if you know any more - take a look at the picture. (BTW - all of the pics on this blog pop up larger when you click on them).

I've pruned the tree back recently, leaving me with several leafy boughs cluttering up a corner of the garden. So I've stripped off the leaves from those and collected up as many as I can find from the lawn and borders.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Autumn Sowing - Broad Beans

More Autumn sowing on the plot - this time Broad Beans.

Based on past experience I've found this well worth doing. The seeds germinate well, the plants get established before the Winter and they are then hardy enough to survive the cold weather.

At least - that works here in Cornwall - where we are generally blessed with milder weather than in the rest of Britain. Further north this may not apply - and it may be necessary to protect the plants with fleece or something similar.

The young plants are then well placed by early Spring - as the weather warms up - to grow on quickly and deliver an early crop of delicious beans. They will only be a few inches high but should be well rooted - and as they grow to full height I'll add some bamboo canes or netting for support.

One important thing though - you need to use a variety of Broad Bean that is suitable for Autumn and Winter sowing. The one I've chosen is Aquadulce Claudia - as I've had some success growing these is previous seasons.

So - onto the practicalities - fairly straightforward in this case.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Digging A Bean Trench

On my allotment plot near St Ives Cornwall I'm following a 4 year crop rotation system.

More details of crop rotation on a future post - but basically this year the top beds on my plot were planted with potatoes - now the beds rotate on to beans for the next year. Having the same crop on the same bed year after year (with some exceptions) can increase the risk of pests and plant diseases - and this certainly applies to potatoes.

It can also exhaust the soil - something that commercial growers overcome by adding lots of artificial fertiliser  - but I'm trying to grow organically - as far as is practically possible.

These beds were manured in early spring - but as spuds are a notoriously hungry crop and use up a lot of nutrients - its probably a good idea to replenish. Also beans love growing on rotting or rotted organic matter. Some crops - such as onions or carrots don't - so the planned beds for those will be left alone for now.

Digging a bean trench is a fairly simple job - helped by the fact that we have a manure heap on-site. Ten tons were delivered to St Ives Allotments early in the year and there is still a fair bit left. Its now really well rotted down after the best part of ten months in the sun and rain - well - mostly rain in Cornwall this year !

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Autumn Sowing - Peas

I've started some Autumn sowing and planting - partly because I'm hoping for some early crops next Spring - partly because I'm an impatient gardener ! I want to have something growing over the winter rather than an empty plot.

The peas may or may not come through and survive the Winter - or the mice, rabbits, pigeons, slugs and other pests that infest our allotment site. But I'm going to give them every chance and if not all I've lost is the price of a packet of seeds - I can always re-sow in Spring. I'll also be implementing my usual contingency plan (my background in Project and Risk Management coming in handy) by sowing some extras in peat pots to grow on in our sheltered St Ives back garden.

If you're planning to sow seeds now its important to choose a variety that's specifically suitable for October sowing - some peas should only be sown in Spring. I've chosen Meteor - not for any deep scientific or horticultural reason. Very simply they were on sale in the half price bin at the local garden centre and it says on the packet that they can go in the ground in October. Simples !

Plus - I've never grown this particular variety before. Last year I grew Hurst Greenshaft - with fair results given the shocking weather. It will be interesting to see how Meteor turns out - its a first-early variety and so should yield some early crops from May. Maybe a bit earlier if the Cornish weather is kind to us.

So - here is my step by step guide to Autumn sowing peas:

1. Hoe over the plot and remove as many weeds as you can. Then sift through the soil by hand to pull out any weeds that the the hoe has missed and as many grass / weed roots as possible. I manured this bed a few weeks ago so I didn't need to add any extra fertility. If your bed needs it add some well rotted manure or compost and fork it in.