The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Crock Pot or Crackpot

It has been a very windy week to say the least. Our plans today were just to take the chicken poo and put it on the bean trench and have a burn up then come home. It was still really windy and we were lucky not to have too much damage, others weren’t so lucky. The lean to is just about holding together so we are hoping for calmer weather to come. We did our planned jobs then went over to the new plot with the tape measure to give us some idea how we would plan the potato planting. The second plot is more square than our original one and measures approximately 42′ square. There is also a small triangular fruit bed but we have told Keith he can keep that for now as he has it planted up with black currant bushes. Joe called us over and gave us three Gooseberry roots and Rob planted them in the fruit cage.

After pulling a couple of Leeks, a swede and a turnip for the chicken casserole we came home windswept but happy. The boys had bought me a crock pot for my birthday so we put the chicken and veg in there and settled down to plan the planting of the new plot. I am not sure if there was a hidden message in their choice of the present, crock pot is very close to crackpot after all. 17th March 2017 Update – My crockpot is no more. After ten years of loyal service I managed to drop a glass on top of it and it broke. I shall use the crock for drainage but the jury is out on the warming element. Might be useful for bottom heat for seedlings.

Chris

Sunny Sunday

After all the rain we have had lately it was a welcome change to be working in the mild sunny weather we had today. We arrived at the plot early and before long the good weather had brought all the plot holders out to play. We moved the small Wilko greenhouse into the lean to and it fitted perfectly along one side of the back wall. I moved the Sweetpea seedlings in there. They are coming along nicely, only one pot yet to show anything. I will need to keep a close eye on them as they have to be pinched out to stop them going straggly. I moved some Cauliflower seedlings from under a cloche and sowed another tray of Cauliflower All Year Round and put both in the greenhouse. We also sowed thirty or so Leek Musselbrough seeds in a 7″ pot. We sowed a few more Broad Bean Aquadulce along the back of the trellis where the ones we sowed in October are about a foot tall now. They have flowers but we don’t expect them to fruit as they will probably be taken at the first frost. We will see.

leekspeascaulibroad beans

We also put in a row of Peas (Fortune) as an experiment alongside the carrot bin. I have put wire netting protection along but haven’t covered with any plastic or fleece as yet.

Rob finally screwed the brass plot number 8 to a stake and hammered it in at the top of our plot. We were given it by a nice lady on freecycle.

Keith confirmed again that we could go ahead and start planting on his old plot so we came back and made a detailed plan of where we are going to plant our seed potatoes. At present they are laid out on egg trays in the garage which is probably too warm but was the only space available. I shall be happy when we have signed on the dotted line and paid the rent on both the plots which should be in April. The chap who has the plot immediately above ours gave us two Celeriac and loads of Artichoke slips. My first feeling is that we will probably plant some of the Artichoke slips for the flowers rather than to eat and give some away. I roasted a few tonight but am not too keen. Haven’t tried the Celeriac yet. Exciting moment of the day. We noticed heads forming on the Broccoli in the brassica cage.

To Chit or Not to Chit That is The Question

Rain, rain and even more rain. Temperatures are very mild for January but there are bound to be frosts and low temperatures to come. Nothing much happening at the allotment so apart from delivering the poo for the compost all we have done is tie down fences etc which have been loosened by the high winds.

The seed potatoes arrived yesterday from Alan Romans with no substitutions. Everything exactly as we ordered. International Kidney, King Edwards, Cara, Pink Fir Apple, Lady Christl, British Queen, Charlotte, Picasso and Roseval.

International Kidneybritish queenrosevalcara

All we have to do now is decide what to do with them while we wait for planting time. A lot of discussion going on on the forums about whether to chit or just plant but our first concern is how and where to store them. We have decided to put our little Wilko greenhouse inside the lean to and lay the potatoes on the shelving when we are ready to chit them. They are in very good condition at the moment so we want to keep them that way. We are planning to grow some in pots and bags and the rest in the ground. I have e-mailed Alan Romans for advice about storage and planting times so we will wait and see what he says. I will have to look up again which are earlies etc as I have forgotten now. Later this month we are planning to sow another row of broad beans and peas outside and sow cauliflower and leeks in pots undercover. Hope the rain slows down a bit though or we may have to wait until February.

Still More Rain, Snowballs and Sprouts

sprouts

We visited the plot yesterday to put the chicken poo in the compost. It was very windy and wet. We harvested our first sprouts and were amazed at the toughness of the stalk. First a gentle tug then a mighty pull followed by a hacking with a knife all to no avail. Feeling great empathy with the old lady and the giant turnip we gave one last heave and at last it came up and Rob fetched a spade to slice the root from the stalk. Today I had the much easier job of cooking them along with a couple of snowball turnips and we both agreed that they were very tasty and would pass muster for Christmas dinner.

Having Fun in The Wind and The Rain

Although we have made almost daily visits to the plot there has been nothing worth writing about until today. Our fruit plants finally arrived from Ken Muir on Monday. We had fitted netting over the top of the fruit cage on Sunday so typically the plants arrived the day after. Rob did a fine impression of Quasimodo this afternoon in order to plant the two minarettes, two gooseberry bushes and twelve free strawberry plants in the fruit cage. The two Rhubarb plants had to be put into a pot in the cold greenhouse ready to be planted out in the Spring. The weather was very wet and the wind was whistling accross the allotments but we managed to enjoy ourselves nevertheless. Exciting moment of the day – We spotted two little green seedling in the Sweet Pea pots in the greenhouse.

The Flower Bed, Keith and his Parsnips.

One of the first things we did on our plot was to make a flower bed in front of the lean to. Rob had made a raised bed with wood and I planted in some Lupin plants I had started at home from seed. As we cleared Trevor’s plot I found a few other flowers and put them into the bed. Today I finally got round to weeding the bed again and noticed that all the plants are looking very healthy. There are the Lupins, Alstromerias, Gypsophylia, Michaelmas Daisies and a few Statis.

Rob went down to the plot on his own yesterday and as well as taking the canes out of the bean trellis he weeded all the empty beds and tidied the raised Rhubarb bed and made it secure with wooden stakes. This morning was quite mild for November and the site was busy. We got to speak to Keith about the two cutting we took from his bonfire. He said it was OK and confirmed that they were Black Currant. We asked Keith about his Carrot bins and whether he grew his Parsnips the same way. Apparently he grows them direct in to the bed and proved how good they were by giving us three to bring back with us to try. Keith is a real character and is very fit at seventy nine. He was telling us about his wife Lil, who is eighty one, and after a very active life had a stroke and is now dependent on him for help. She is the reason he is giving up his second plot which we will hopefully take on next year. On the way home we again stopped at the park to collect more leaves for the chicken run. The remembrance service was taking place at the small war memorial there and the whole place was glorious in the golden glow of the leaves.

September 2006

The 2nd September, Rob’s birthday and the Wollescote show. We had a laugh with new friends and paid over the odds for auctioned flowers, vegetables and a birthday cake.

Wollescote Show produce

4th September – Planted broad beans they should be ready to harvest from February 2007. 16th September – We put up the gazebo and netted the sides, put down weed suppresant fabric and planted sixty three overwintering brassicas. They should be ready by March next year. Planted two hundred overwintering onion sets over three beds. Trevor finally moved his marrows and pumpkins so we were able to clear the ground. We lost all three beds of potatoes to late blight. We were advised to cut off all the haulms and leave the beds for two weeks before digging up the potatoes. We don’t expect to get any.

August 2006

There were red berries all over the big tree at home and it has reminded me how quickly the growing year is flying past. The peas were a disaster so we dug them up, same with lettuce, we have a lot to learn. We have planted some late potatoes, Carlingford, Maris Peer and Charlotte. The shed went up on the 30th and we now feel that we have really moved in to our plot. Trevor is giving us more and more space and we are gradually making it ours. We planted 33 leek plants given to us by the brothers. Also sowed seeds for beetroot, carrots, swede and turnips.

June 2006 – Jemima

First baby duck hatched 6th JuneWe have been fortunate enough to get an allotment on Bob’s Coppice site in Quarry Bank. This was our first choice after visiting a few locally so we feel very lucky. We have been down to see it and can’t wait to get started. We are to take over from the present plot holder, Trevor, gradually as he still has produce growing. It should be completely ours by April 2007. We have been allowed to sow a few seeds where there is space and we have made a start with beetroot, lettuce, radish and spring onions. We have also transferred some potatoes and tomatoes that we had started at home. 6th June was the date that our two white call ducks hatched at home.

Welcome – Where it all Began

We have two allotment plots in Quarry Bank in the West Midlands. We only officially take them on in April 2007 but have unofficially been working on plot 8 since June. We have laid out beds, erected a shed, a fruit cage and a brassica cage and have inherited a lean to greenhouse from the previous plot holder. We have also bought a small plastic greenhouse and loads of seeds and are both excited at the prospect of growing a variety of vegetables next year. We have some notes dating from June 2006 which I shall add to remind us where we started.