© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments -
Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here
Parts of this week have tempted us into thinking that the thick sweaters can be packed away but then we have been brought back to reality with some very windy days when it has felt quite chilly. The plum and greengages, on our plot, are loaded with blossom so it is left to fate to decide whether the frost that has been apparent on some mornings will put paid to what promises to be a good crop of fruit.
The long awaited shed has arrived and been erected on the plot. I suppose a more
apt name for it would be a retreat as its main purpose is to provide a refuge where
we can have a cup of coffee and a chat without sitting outside in the cold. It has
already been tested out and fits the bill perfectly. We don’t intend to use it for
storage – we prefer to use the mobile shed for transporting tools etc. We managed
to get quite a bargain as far as the shed was concerned – an ex-
This week not only have we weeded and rotavated on the plots but have actually got
down to sowing seed, namely parsnip – Gladiator -
Most of our vegetable plants are raised in the greenhouse so seeds are sown in pots and trays rather than straight into open ground. Some have been given a kick start in an electric propagator kept in a spare bedroom and are transferred to our cold greenhouse as soon as they have germinated. Given this treatment have been:
Cauliflower – Snowball & Kaleidoscope Mixed – Kaleidoscope is a mix of purple, green and yellow coloured cauliflowers. Surprisingly the coloured varieties have been much quicker to germinate than the usual white headed variety.
The sweet peas and leeks planted last month are now germinating and the potatoes planted in pots and potato bags are now on the move.
The grapevine that always threatens to take over the greenhouse has begun to shoot.
In the garden it is the trees and shrubs that have been the stars of the show this week. Camellias are loaded with blooms as is the magnolia that looks particularly good when viewed from a bedroom window. Trees are leafing up too. Some lily of the valley plants have been planted in a tub to hopefully protect them from slug devastation.
The birds are very active and mainly seen around in pairs. Collared doves are busy noisily displaying. Also fairly vocal and much more tuneful are the wrens. It’s always amazing that such a strident song originates from such a tiny bird! We have had a pair of long tailed tits visiting the garden, hopefully looking for a prospective home. If they do nest with us it will be a first. Bumblebees are also checking out prospective sites for nest building and are just in time to help pollinate our plum trees. The sun has brought out the butterflies too.
The cherry trees seen when travelling around look really spectacular especially where they are planted in a group or row. It is just such a shame that the blossom only lasts for a very short time.
It’s really beginning to look and feel like spring now. I think from now until the end of May is my favourite time of the year when the greens look so fresh and everything seems just bursting to grow. This includes the dandelions that look good mingling with the daisies on roadside verges but not so good on the plot. One minute they have been mown down and the very next moment have sprung back up again and are in full flower.
Although much of the blossom is now past its best, the wild cherry is now in flower joining forces with the blackthorn.
The garden greenhouse is beginning to fill up with seedlings and plants that have overwintered in its relative shelter are growing well. The potatoes planted in pots and potato bags are growing strongly after a rather slow start.
In the garden perennials and shrubs are echoing what is happening in the greenhouse. The garden is looking more like a garden every day. The gunnera planted alongside the pond has made it through the winter and is shooting. The fish in our fishpond are becoming very demanding – each time we are spotted passing the pond the underwater activity livens up and mouths gape out of the water! The birds are also very active; we have even spotted a young robin which must have fledged early as it is now fully independent and feeding itself.
We have had some very pleasant days on the plot. Our heat treated onion sets arrived. We bought a red variety – Red Baron, a white variety – White Prince and a yellow variety – Fen Globe. We may seem behind with our onion planting but heat treated onions are dispatched and planted later than non treated sets. The treatment given damages the onion flower bud and so the plant is less likely to bolt and go to seed. They are a bit more expensive but last year were worth it. About half the sets have been planted.
We have also started to plant our potatoes using the trowel method, some Juliette and Belle de Fontenay. I have also weeded around the raspberry canes that are growing strongly now. We dug up all the remaining carrots that we overwintered in the ground. Some were still good enough to harvest. We kept them under environmesh and so they will not have provided a refuge for carrot fly.
The plum blossom has so far avoided being damaged by the frost and is being given the bumblebees full attention. We have had the trees for many years but for the first time I have noticed that the blossom has a slight perfume.
Other plot activities have focused on our newly acquired shed. Sheds on our site need securing or they may disappear in strong winds so this was a priority. Already the shed is proving its worth as a coffee room.
Seeds planted last week have all germinated. We have now moved on to sowing flower seeds, aquilegia – Snowbird, astilbe – Showstar, chrysanthemum – Rainbow Mixture and nicotiana – Roulette Mixed. These are currently in the heated propagator in a spare bedroom.
Today I was asked what happened with regard to the medlars picked last year . I have to admit – not much. I’m not sure whether we picked them too soon or whether they were small due to it being the tree’s first year but in short there wasn’t enough fruit to really have a good taste and decide what we thought of them. We really bought the tree for its decorative qualities so any fruit, especially if it proves palatable, will be a bonus.
Although the greenery says spring , winter is still challenging the idea and sending some cold winds. When the sun pushes through it is lovely and warm. It’s the sort of weather that the plants and wild life must find confusing.
In the garden the conference pear tree has moved into centre stage. The problem is that its branches stretch across the greenhouse so from time to time a pear will drop down and shatter the glass.
The magnolia and camellias although carpeted with fallen petals still look good. Other shrubs are ready to burst into flower and take their place. The ferns and hostas are also putting on a growth spurt. Everything seems to be waiting for the starting pistol to fire! The cowslips have definitely proved their worth and are still in full flower both in the garden and under the fruit trees on the plot.
The greenhouse in the garden is gradually filling up. This week has seen plenty of seed sowing:
The seeds of the Mesembryanthemum and Nemesia are tiny. Many tiny seeds need light in order to start germination and so they are sprinkled on top of the tray of compost and then covered in Perlite. The flower seeds are in an electric propagator in the house but are removed to the greenhouse as soon as they begin to germinate. This prevents the seedlings from growing leggy and weak. With this in mind the seeds that had germinated in the propagator have been moved into the greenhouse namely Chrysanthemum – Rainbow Mixed and Nicotiana – Roulette Mixed
Many seeds that have already germinated, and produced their first true leaves, have been pricked out:
In the garden greenhouse the potatoes planted in pots earlier in the year are growing well – its the first time we have tried doing this so fingers are crossed for at least a few early potatoes. The carrots sown in a tub in the greenhouse are also continuing to grow well.
Some young plants have been moved into the cold frame where they can harden off. Hardening off is to provide a half way house between the cosseted environment of the greenhouse and the unprotected environment of the open garden. Moving young plants straight from the greenhouse to the open garden would be too much of a shock to their systems. Young plants that have been moved into the cold frame to join other young plants there this week are:
The plot greenhouse has been tidied ready to receive the new season’s plants. Over winter it doubles as a second shed with any plants in need of some shelter being kept in the garden greenhouse. As a start we have planted some lettuce and salad leaf plants to give us some early leaves for our salad. The garlic that overwintered in the greenhouse has been moved outside where it is often mistaken for leeks in a tub. I just hope that cloves will form as the plants look great.
We are still managing to harvest spring onions planted last year. Most are rather large but are still perfectly acceptable in salads. We were going to pull them out but never actually got around to it. Next year we will probably leave some in on purpose as it was a happy accident.
We are still tidying and weeding the beds on the plot. We go for a system of beds surrounded by grass paths. We like the more natural look and in our opinion nothing sets off a planting area better than green. It’s also good for wildlife but is not everyone’s choice. Grass does take some looking after and this week many beds have needed the edges cutting back to prevent the grass from encroaching and reducing their size.
We have, however turned the corner on the plot and are beginning to fill up beds rather than just clearing them. This week we have completed our potato planting with the varieties Anya, Juliette, Charlotte & Nicola. We generally grow a few varieties in the hope that at least one or two will do well in whatever conditions prevail.
Also planted were some broad bean plants – Bunyards Exhibition and the remaining onion sets. The latest onion sets were planted in clusters and should produce smaller onions. The onions and shallots planted last autumn were weeded this week and are now growing really well and the shallots planted this spring are also beginning to make good growth.
Carrots – Yellowstone, Early Nantes 2, Autumn King 2 & Baby Carrot Ideal Red have been sown in shallow trenches filled with compost as our clay soil isn’t an ideal medium for germinating seeds. Early in the year we were bemoaning our waterlogged soil and now the soil is really dry and in places quite hard and lumpy and we now have to water our young plants.
Work has also continued on the shed – just a few shelves for odds and ends.
We did have a surprise when we arrived home from the plot one day. Just by the driver’s visor we noticed a Large White butterfly alongside of which was an empty chrysalis. It would seem that the butterfly had just emerged from the chrysalis that must have been hanging there unnoticed all winter! As it was quite late the butterfly was left in the relative warmth overnight and in the morning transferred to a nectar rich flower in the garden. At least in this brassica free zone its caterpillars should do no harm!
Another week where a major challenge was to decide whether to leave a sweater on or take it off. When the sun was shining it was quite hot and summery but as soon as it disappeared behind a cloud the temperature chilled and it was back on with the sweater.
Things in the garden are moving on at a fair pace now with changes noticeable from morning to later afternoon.
At the beginning of the week I was cutting back dead stems and weeding around the pots of hostas and by the end of the week some varieties have fully opened leaves and others are not too far behind. Just wonder how long it will be before they are trimmed into lacy patterns by the slugs and snails. One reason for growing them in tubs and pots is to attempt to delay the onslaught. The pots have rings of copper tape around them which does help. Our patio is quite shady and so tends to green up over winter. This was water blasted this week – its annual clean – it looks better and also tends to be a less hospitable environment for slugs.
The ferns are also developing their furry caterpillar like new fronds and so all last year’s growth has been cut away to allow the new fronds to develop unhindered. I love ferns and in our garden have quite a collection of different varieties.
Although the camellias are still flowering well I have had to slightly trim one as it was almost blocking one garden path. One variety is allowed to grow to its full height but another is judicially trimmed each year so it doesn’t outgrow its allocated area.
Stars of the garden this week include the crab apple trees – John Downie which produces edible fruit and Profusion which is grown for its red blossom and bronze leave. I just can’t imagine having a garden without some trees – they just add something even to the smallest garden. Our choisya also has more flowers than it has ever had before.
As the perennials have grown some were in danger of being overshadowed by larger neighbours and so have been moved into a more favourable position.
Work has begun on the flower bed alongside the greenhouse. This has never really been sorted to our satisfaction so we are now starting plan F or G.
The fish are definitely livening up with the rudd showing signs of adding yet more offspring to the pond. We have all manner of sizes of this fish which is quite prolific even when many of the eggs must be eaten by other fish which are always nearby when there is any egg laying action.
Although we haven’t noticed any frog spawn this year, the frogs seem to have returned and hopefully set off on slug patrol each evening.
The birdbaths are also a hive of activity – one fussy blackbird was seen picking magnolia petals out of the water before he took his bath.
In the garden greenhouse the sweet pea seedlings – Kings Special Mix & Kings Perfumed Delight – we achieved 100% germination and the root systems look really strong.
We took advantage of one of the late season’s offers and ordered some impatiens plantlets (busy lizzies). These arrived this week although quite small already have flower buds. They have been moved on into larger cells. They are destined to play a major part in our greenhouse border revamp.
Seed sown in the greenhouse this week were:
The plot is looking far less barren now. A frame has been made to cover the carrot bed with enviromesh which is our tried and tested method of keeping carrot fly at bay. We have used the same sheets for several years. The green algae that had developed was pressure washed away. It was also noticed that some holes had developed which would provide an entrance for the pests and so it was a case of putting a needle and cotton in amongst the garden tools and carrying out a quick repair job. The stitchwork wouldn’t pass the dressmaking test but has sealed the holes which was the objective.
The parsnips are now germinating well and a regular row has formed which is always satisfying. Some twigs were placed over the rows to prevent any wandering animal from ruining then chance of good germination. Now it’s fingers crossed that the seedlings survive any pest searching for a quick meal.
Some pea plants are waiting in the greenhouse to be planted out but we have also
sown some pea seeds-
Young plants which were planted out on the plot this week were:
Also sown was radish – Rainbow Mixed, just to continue this year’s coloured vegetable theme. The seeds were different colours and so I made sure I sowed some of each colour. A sowing of spring onion – Guardsman was also made and we are still harvesting spring onions ( not a very apt name in this case) that were sown last year and have overwintered.
Another overwintered addition to our salad bowl is Blood Veined Sorrel which is a perennial. We harvest the fresh young leaves as older leaves become tough and unpalatable.
Other crops providing a harvest at the moment are purple sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage.
For a couple of years now we have had some cranberry plants which have just done nothing – also their spreading growing habit makes weeding difficult so this week they have been dug up and moved into tubs. The roots of the plants still hadn’t really made any effort to spread out into the surrounding soil so hopefully they will be happier in the tubs of ericaceous compost. They will also be able to trail down the sides of the tubs rather than spread across the soil. I am afraid it could be their last chance to earn a permanent home.
Also planted in the flower beds were perennials moved from the garden Michaelmas daisies which will hopefully provide late cut flowers, Verbena Bonariensis and Heuchera Purple Palace.
The black polythene coverings that has been protecting the dahlia tubers over winter has been removed to expose some pale yellow straggly growth which indicate that the tubers have survived. The straw has been left in place to give some protection should the weather turn cold. It also seems to be providing a haven for toads, one of whom emerged from the straw blinking once the polythene was removed. The dahlias may look weak and straggly now but will soon green up and develop into strong plants. The two dahlia beds have been merged into one by removing a path and so the plants will have more space in which to grow.
One thing that I have noticed when travelling around this week is the spectacle provided by dandelions. When travelling alongside a stretch of motorway near where we live the verges are just ribbons of golden yellow. It looks just amazing and I would love to see an aerial photograph to see how far the ribbons stretch. The dandelion seems to thrive where the grass is kept short. No wonder they love our lawns where they are far less welcome!