Thursday, 28 April 2016

Mother Nature is poorly

I know they say "April showers bring May flowers," but poor old Mother Nature seems decidedly poorly at the moment.  After a few gloriously warm days earlier in the month when the plants perked up, put on growth and flower buds started opening, the weather has turned its back on gardeners for the moment.

The last few days have seen multiple hail and snow showers, and while none has stayed around for long it's decidedly COLD.  In fact last night saw one of the hardest frosts/freezes we've seen in almost the whole winter, never mind a month into spring.

My poor plants don't know if they're coming or going.  All the potatoes have their blankies on, the peas have gone on strike, the lettuces are having a hissy fit and the carrots seem to think that doing anything more than popping their first leaves up is far too much like hard work.  The birds are also struggling, and feeding like mad.  I feel sorry for the swallows who've thus far made it to the UK, as normally at this time they're happily flying around catching insects, but even they seem to have disappeared again - both the swallows and the insects!

Any seeds which I had planned on sowing have been put on hold for now, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that once we're in May, things might just improve.  We're three days off, for heaven's sake, and I'm sure we're not supposed to have snow at the end of April :-(

As the outdoor efforts are temporarily on hold and as housemate had an appointment in town, we called in at the central library.  After checking our library cards were still valid as we haven't been for a while (they were), I was informed I had a fine owing from 2014 for a book that was apparently returned late!  It's also for a book I don't even remember taking out - something about the back-roads of France, which is definitely not my thing, but I wasn't going to argue about a couple of quid.

I got a copy of "The Polytunnel Book" by Joyce Russell which I'd been contemplating buying but can now peruse first, "The Kitchen Herb Garden" by Maureen Little, "Glorious Glut" by Jackie Sherman - here's hoping I get crops at all!  A glut would be lovely!!  I also got a copy of "The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts" as I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.  I'm now curled up in front of the wood-burner, with books and a cuppa.  Sod the weather.

Saturday, 23 April 2016


With the weather forecast promising frost last night, the potatoes in the front garden got their blankie put on, and were covered up with fleece.  Just as well I did really, as by 11pm there was a definite twinkle of frost on the shed roof.  Instead of the promised rain though, it was bright and sunny this morning, although rather cold out of the sun and the spuds were kicked out of bed, and everything opened up.  It's amazing how quickly the little grow-houses get too hot at this time of year if they're not unzipped.

I spent part of the morning potting up more veg seedlings and sowing some sweetcorn and squash seeds, then noticed that six of the Golden Acre cabbage plants I'd potted up a few weeks ago had grown on particularly well so took them down to the allotment.  I do the 'square foot' gardening method, even on the allotment, so found some gaps where over-wintered broad bean plants had not gone the distance and stuck the cabbages in there instead.  The guideline for cabbage is 1 per square foot and they got bottle cloches plonked over them so they should do ok and hopefully the pigeons will stay off.

This afternoon we took another visit to the Thorncliffe Farm Shop at Emley, and on to the ice cream shop just up the road.  At the ice cream place, which is also a dairy that sells its milk direct, I enquired whether they sold raw milk. They don't.  But they told me another dairy not too far away does, via a vending machine.

A slow google later - surprisingly the signal was crap, despite being in a direct line from the largest thing to have the phone thingys on in the shape of Emley Mast half a mile away - revealed the other dairy was only four miles distant, so we went and got a carton.  I must confess I've never, to my knowledge, tried raw milk although I remember my Mum talking about being sent off, as a small child, to the farm with the little container to get milk for her mother which I guess would have been raw back in the day.

It'll be interesting to see whether it tastes very different to the pasteurised stuff.  I like unhomogenised milk, which I grew up with, but even that's hard to find these days and Morrisons seems to be the only supermarket round here to sell it.  I gave some to Small, but he hated it as it had 'bits' in it (the cream!).

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Peas in

Another lovely sunny day here so time to get something done on the allotment, despite having very little in the way of energy thanks to a ghastly head cold.

A load of stuff, including some bark chips, reels of hose so we don't have to trek back and forth with watering cans, and other bits & bobs were taken down.  The grass got its second cut and is beginning to look half decent again.  Another trugful of broken glass was picked up, but as it's bin night this has been distributed throughout the street's bins ;-) to save another trip to the tip.

Some petit-pois peas and beetroot have been transplanted into one of the beds as I'm fast running out of space in the grow houses at home, and the dalek I won on eBay has been deposited on the lottie.  It's yet to find its permanent place, but for now it's been dumped with the other compost bins.

Where the weedy bit in the distance starts is where I found the raspberry canes.  There are actually quite a few of them, and the ones near the compost bins seem to be appearing at a rate of knots.  I always knew raspberries were prone to "wandering", but these seem to have made it an art form.  My plot neighbour has also gained a few canes!

Back at home, I noticed one of the gutter lettuces has disappeared, and a tell-tale slime trail where the plantlet had been. I'd forgotten to put any slug pellets in the guttering, so I guess it stands to reason that the slimy blighters would be after succulent lettuce transplants.

A nice picking of PSB for tea tonight.  The plant that gave up the very small portion a week or two back had made lots of side shoots, so those were enjoyed this evening.  Even Small didn't complain, which he usually does whenever any sort of broccoli is put in front of him.  Something to be said for home grown :-)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


With beautiful clear skies and plenty of sunshine, it was just too nice and warm not to do any gardening today.

The two stray Wilja 2nd early potatoes have finally been planted in a pot.  In the cabbage bed some radish seeds were sown to hopefully get a quick crop before the cabbages grow too big, and I've also sown a few Calendula seeds as I seem to remember reading somewhere that marigolds go well with brassicas.  I also now have some lettuces pricked out and transplanted into lengths of old guttering, which have been put (temporarily) in a shady spot along the front fence.

I didn't get much done yesterday as it was just too darned cold - a complete contrast to the beautiful weather both today, and on Sunday.  I did however manage to get a pile of stuff into housemate's car, including the trug full of broken glass, which was taken to the tip and disposed of.  The rubbish, that is, not the trug, although it nearly fell down into the huge skip as I emptied the glass and other crap out of it!  It almost made me cry to see the pile of huge planters, perfectly good planters I might add, which someone had chucked into the plastics bin. They'd have been wonderful down on the lottie. Sigh.

I did win a 330L "Dalek" compost thingy on eBay for a fiver, so will go and collect that tomorrow.  Apparently it comes with a bit of "free dirt and possibly a couple of worms". :-)

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Not summer yet but

There's an old saying that one swallow does not make a summer, but it always makes me smile when I first see these little guys whose epic journey has brought them back to our shores.

This one was sitting on the wires above the car while we ate our picnic lunch today.  The weather might have been lovely, but the wind was still bitingly cold so we sat in the car to eat our sandwiches.  We'd stopped to call into the very excellent Thorncliffe Farm Shop, near Emley, before a visit to Dearne Lea Ice Cream shop in nearby Shelley.  Fantastic ice cream, and they also sell milk from their own dairy herd.  Yum yum!

Friday, 15 April 2016

First cut

The grass at the allotment has finally had its first cut of the year, and I've managed to get a bit further down than last year.  The photo below shows the big difference between the nice green area that was regularly cut over the last couple of years, and the yellowed area that's not been cut since who knows when.  This is about three quarters of the way down the plot, and the shed can just be seen in the distance.

The grass cutting came to an abrupt halt when I reached a big pile of broken glass, tin cans and various other detritus that looks like the majority of it came from someone's old greenhouse and has just been dumped on my plot.  I managed to fill a trug full, which now needs to be taken to the local tip.  I say 'local' somewhat grudgingly as there was, until recently, a tip just the other end of the village.  Now it's a good drive to the council's new facility.

On the plus side, I did discover some raspberry canes growing in amongst the weedy grass, so another day these will be rescued and put further up the plot with the rest of the fruit. I'd also dug up and replanted some escapees from the existing raspberry bed and put them along the fence line.  Hopefully they'll take.

The broad beans I planted had really put on a growth spurt and had outgrown their bottle cloches, so these were removed and a net cloche put over them in the hope that the dastardly wood pigeons won't get at them until they've grown a bit more.

Back at home three sections of guttering have been planted up with peas, Alderman, Progress and some more Kelvedon Wonder.  I've tried several several lots of KW, none of which have germinated this year although they've always done really well in the past.  If this lot don't do anything, I'll conclude the seed has had it and get some new.  I've also dug over the 1m square bed that had had cabbage in it, ready for something else to go in later on.

The container potatoes have been earthed up, and another very large container has been planted up with some "Orla".  These had deliberately been left aside as I don't want all the potatoes being ready at the same time!  There are some more to go in over the next few weeks, along with a couple of stray Wilja, so with a bit of luck we'll get a successional crop.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A few days makes a difference

What a difference a few days makes!  Having been away for a short visit to the parents, the allotment hadn't been visited for a few days.  With all the rain, and slightly warmer weather, the grass has gone mad and is sorely in need of a haircut.  The broad beans left under their pop bottle cloches all seem to have survived any attempts by the slugs to get at them, and the over-wintered broad beans are nicely in flower.  Of the potatoes planted in the (now) lime-green bed there are still no sign yet, but hopefully they'll poke their heads up soon.

The trees are coming into bud/flower nicely and the plum tree, or at least I think it's the plum tree as it's lost its label and I can't remember which order I planted the trees in, looks lovely with all its flowers.

There were plenty of seedlings in the back yard grow houses that needed potting on, so a happy hour or so was spent with hands in the dirt potting on cabbage seedlings.  Some summer squash seeds were sown, along with another tub of carrot seeds and some kaleidoscope beetroot seeds that I picked up while visiting the folks, and some more pea seeds were put in soak.  I've never really been sure of whether I liked beetroot or not, but having tried some that was served up with Small's lunch the other day, which was delicious, I decided they're not bad after all so am encouraged to try growing some!

I was pleased to see that some of the carrot seeds sown a few weeks back have started to germinate, so I'm hoping we might actually get some carrots of various hues this year.  This is one veg that seriously doesn't like our soil here in Yorkshire and needs to be grown in containers.  So far, we've sown some Purple Haze, Chantenay, Nantes 5 and Parisienne.

There's also a tray of Pak Choi which needs pricking out.  Another veg I've absolutely no idea what to do with, but the seeds were free with something or other so I'll try anything once. A job for another day.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Mad woman v molluscs

A brief visit to the allotment this morning, ostensibly to check on the newly transplanted broad beans, inevitably led to spotting a couple of things that needed doing, and a bit of digging.  Thankfully the horrid slug pellets had done their thing and several deceased slimeballs lay around the bottle cloches, with all the bean plants currently intact.

After a bit of trimming around some of the beds, I picked up the fork and did a bit more digging into the area where the new poly-tunnel thingy will sit.  It's slow going, due to all the couch grass and nettle roots that need pulling out, a seemingly endless supply of stones, and copious amounts of broken glass to be painstakingly picked out and slung into a bucket kept especially for bits of glass.

Later in the day we took a trip to Lidl, with a bribe of a donut for Small, for another bag of bark bits and some of their seed compost which seems to be a nice consistency and pretty cheap at £1.49 for 20L.  Just as we were about to exit the store, the heavens opened with the most torrential hail storm, accompanied by loud claps of thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning.  Although the storm only lasted a few minutes and we were able to get into the car relatively dry and unscathed, it did follow us all the way home which meant a brief sit in the car once we'd pulled up to wait for it to stop.

With so much rain this afternoon, it was inevitable that the dastardly snails and slugs are out in force tonight, which led to a woman on a mission with a flashlight.  I've no doubt my neighbours are now used to the sight of this crazy pyjama and wellie-boot clad loon poking around the garden in the dark with a torch and a pair of tongs, but I'm ever vigilant to the fact that the men in white coats may well be on their way to get me any time now!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

First edibles of the year

My first edibles were harvested from the garden today.  OK, so it was nothing spectacular, some salad leaves for my lunchtime sandwich and some a pathetically small amount of PSB to have with my tea, but at least it's home grown!

It's been far too wet the last couple of days to get anything done on the allotment, so the digging of the ground where the new polytunnel/growhouse is going will have to wait a bit longer as it's just too claggy to dig today.

To keep up my gardening spirits, I potted on a load of Golden Acre cabbage plantlets into bigger pots in the hope they develop a nice strong rootball and a bit more growth before they have to brave the wood pigeons and slugs down at the allotment.  For the time being, they can stay in the little growhouse in the back yard where they're safer, if not totally safe, from the marauding molluscs.