Rain, Rain, Cold, Wind

March 2013-snow in the woods

I cannot really understand how the winter has been so miserable for so long. I like cold dry weather but incessant damp cold is miserable. The allotment has been blown about, rained on and frozen for so long that I am surprised anything is still growing. So far my winter planted onions and garlic are just showing. The overwintering leeks have just been harvested and the purple sprouting and other brassicas have been eaten by the pigeons as both the bird scarer and cage were blown over. My potatoes are starting to chit and I hope to get them in over Easter but with the ground so cold I may have to wait. Let’s hope we get some sun soon.

A look back from a hot November

The allotment has been hard work this autumn. The combination of warmth and wet has really benefitted the weeds and the slugs. Other problems have included the dreaded Onion fly which caused my lovingly grown leeks to ‘melt’ . I managed to save the white tips and have stir -fried these and frozen for later use.

Leeks damaged by onion fly larvae

An onion fly larva about 8mm long

Mid October gave me a chance to plant my garlic,  sprouts and asian walking onions ( grown from seeds) into the allotment. It took until mid November for me to find the time to plant the onion sets ( by which time some had started to sprout). Does ‘chitting’ onions help or hinder the final crop?

Halloween brough the best crop of pumpkins and squash I have ever had , most are in store and being slowly used for soup. I like to roast them in segments with olive oil and dry chilli flakes  then scrape out the flesh into some softened onions, add stock or water and this year I am adding the borlotti and french beans that have been podded and boiled until tender.  Really hearty and tasty.

One of the many great pumpkins

Another wonderful squash - Turban squash

The beans – about 5kg were harvested from the last of the bean pods

Borlotti and french beans- for beefing up the soup

The largest pumpkin was selected by my son for Halloween creative carving  many visiting ghouls and witches were impressed!

Home grown Halloween pumpkin

While all this spooky work was going on my new sprout plants were devastated by slugs  and so we will have to have cabbage for Christmas.

Buckingham Nurseries have kindly replaced the Medlar tree which died last year so I have planted this out, carefully following the instructions and hope that it can establish itself as well as the quince tree has done.   Otter Farm has sent through my Szechuan pepper  tree. I am looking forward to seeing it seed over the next few years.

For reference here are the plans for the allotment in 2011 20a sits next to 20b to make a nice rectangular patch with a path down the middle.

Plot 20 A plan 2011

Plot 20B plan 2011

Now on with the weeding……

Getting going on the Allotment

Having spent as many dry days as possible over the winter, putting in fencing and gates and digging over nearly all the plot I am now ready for spring. So far I have planted some broad beans and some winter lettuce which are growing well under cover. I have put in some pea seeds which have not done anything – they were only put in a week ago, some are under fleece and some under a cage to stop the pigeons.

I have decided to keep one leek going and see if I can grow another crop from the seeds – something of an experiment.  My globe artichokes are beginning to sprout but it looks as though around half ( 3) have been killed by the early and harsh winter. I will have to wait a month or so more to be sure.

The Medlar and Quince trees, planted in big buried pots are sprouting as are my red and white currents and gooseberries. The vines are still asleep.

The only crop apart from purple spouting and Calvo Nero from last year is rhubarb, my forcer has enabled a couple of crumbles worth. Very tasty. I am going to use the last bits as a sharp sauce for slow roast pork belly.

Having done a brief Twitter survey on seed potato planting, I have decided to wait  a couple more weeks, the nights are still cold and I guess we will have some heavy frosts in April.  I am warming up the soil under black plastic sheets which look horrid but should do the job.

At home the window sill and polytunnel are  full of tomato  and chilli seedlings. Also courgettes, aubergines and climbing  beans of various types in root trainers. I am hoping to plant runners and french beans across the full width of the allotments with an archway over the path.  Around the arch I want to try cucumbers and small squash.

I am very keen to get on with everything but feel the weather still has a few tricks to play before we can really get going.

Winter allotment work

>Temperature is -2c and bright and sunny. Sunday is the only day I have time to work on the allotment. Last time I visited I found a rabbit under one if my cages. So now I have to put in a proper fence all round. On arrival I discovered that my kale has been stripped by birds. So it will have to go under a cage again.
The ground is so hard that to dig a suitable trench for the fence I needed a lump hammer to break up the frosted clay . Two hours later and I put the back fence in but ran out of daylight for a proper job on the front. So I have tacked an unburied piece of wire across the front as a temporary barrier. The rabbits will not be able to get under as the ground is too hard for them to dig.
It is too cold to harvest anything but I hope the kale grows back.