Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sunday and Monday up the allotment.

The London Marathon was on in the morning, and West Ham played Middlesborough in the semi final for a place in the Cup Final against Liverpool.

I always know the date of the Cup Final – not that I am a keen football supporter, but because I was in labour with my first son whilst the match was on – and came out of hospital on the day of the Cup Final five years later in time for the family to watch it! Not that I was impressed at the time!

So I left my dearly beloved at home and headed off to the lottie. A dull miserable day – just for a change LOL.

The place was deserted – I guess all the others were glued to the television!!

I got my little Merry Tiller out and went over the ground a few times where I wanted to plant the onions sets.

When I bought them loose from an old fashioned store in town, there didn’t look many. But on my hands and knees with the tiddly little things I realised that there were between 200 to 300 hundred in all.

I did six rows on Saturday and it still took me a good couple of hours to get the final two rows done – making eight in all. I had put my back out on Saturday so had to be very careful!

It sounds a lot of onions but over the year we a lot, and are using up our last string at the moment so will run out before these are ready. There are all sorts of varieties – I don’t know the names as the girl in the shop mixed them up and didn’t write what they were on the bags. But I don’t mind. I know that some of them are Sturon and I have two rows of red ones!

I spent time with the chickens and collected their eggs, and they still come when I call so I still get a cuddle. I thought that they might go ‘native’ being up the allotment and in a different environment.

I took a few photos of some of the allotments up there.

Looking sideways from my plot across seven on them

I know of 10 tractors of all sizes and styles. That is quite a high ratio out of 18 plots.

Some of the ‘tractor boys’ have more than one plot. I was watching J on Saturday, tinkering with one of his tractors, then hitching a thing on the back – a cultivator I think, and went up and down the plot a few times, Then he unhitched that and went up and down with a plough thing that made the grooves for the potatoes, then he and his father walked along and threw in a potato – just chucked them in the grove, then he hitched the other thing to his tractor and went over it all to cover them up!

OH said that the time he took tinkering with it, and attaching the different things on the back, took longer than the way I did them. I can see the attraction of doing it that way. But I think that I get more satisfaction being a ‘hands on’ gardener.

Here are a selection of some of the plots – they all look so nice and tidy don’t they.

After taking the photos, I went back to work. I hand weeded all around the broad beans. That took me an hour. I was so pleased, that despite being pecked, chewed, nibbled, and frozen half to death, some of them looked really healthy and are actually in flower. Some of the blackened frost damaged stems had re-sprouted and there was healthy green growth on the ends. I dug it all over with a hand trowel and the soil looked rather nice, so I decided to sow some broad beans in the gaps. By the time the over-wintered ones are ready to be harvested the others will be well on their way too.

Don't you get a pretty flower on what I think is such a boring end result with the pod and beans.

I ‘tillered’ around the rows of strawberries, and weeded between them and they look healthier too. The first growth got hit by the dreadful sub zero temperatures – but they are fighting back and starting to grow again. I am glad that I have a few spare to fill in the gaps.

The difference between the field ones, and those sheltered in the fruit cage is amazing. Those are green and lush and full leaved – just by being sheltered by a few wooden pallets! Still I should get two crops an early and a late one.

A few dock weeks have appeared in the last week, so I will have to oink them out when I can dig again. Or sweet talk OH to do them.

Whilst on my hands and knees it was lovely to see the little flower plants emerging. Hostas are bursting through now, crocosmias, delphiniums, rudbeckias, cardoons, salvia turkistanicas, and the flag irises are going to look a treat this year. Even some of the chrysanthemums are starting to shoot – they looked like dead sticks – hope the rabbits keep out of that area.

The rudbeckia are just through at the back against the fence and grow over six feet tall and are wonderful in the summer. There are delphiniums in the distance and in the front are the stems of lots of chrysanthemums - just forming leaves right at ground level.

It was hard to drag myself away, but I was so hungry – and it was gone 2pm again – so I collected the eggs, put the chickens in their run, and reluctantly came home.

I managed to cook lunch with all the trimmings so that OH could finish it in time to watch the football match - and West Ham won!

Monday 23th

I gingerly went up the lottie yesterday - have 'done' my back in. I just love to be out in the fresh air, so I took the car up there, and spent time with KoKKo, Adelaide and Ginger. They squawk with delight as soon as they caught sight of me, and mobbed me happily when I let them out and knelt down to stroke them - then when they realised that I did not have any treats they shot off to all corners of their meadow and busied themselves with worm hunting. I sat on my old chair and just watched for 15 minutes, did a few warm up exercises (only the chooks could see me) then went off to look for a job I could do without doing any more damage.

'Ping' an idea - just when I thought there would be nothing suitable.

I did all that hard work last week on the middle area and also where a couple of the bean trenches are.

Overwinter they have been filled with kitchen and allotment waste, topped with layers of chicken, horse, and pig muck, and then covered with the soil I dug out.

So I could just about manage to put up a row of canes. If I could find enough that is.

For the two summer seasons that I have had my plot, I used cut down tree branches, but they were rotted so I had to burn those over the winter. They are really good for the job though and being branches, the beans get lots of space to spread out and grow on the top branches.

I had a good search in my tardis of a pig hut and came up with some old tall canes, and some straw bale twine - bright orange and indestructable. I spent a good half an hour patiently sitting on a chair untangling some out of my sack and untying some knots. I did not have any scissors or a knife sharp enough to cut the stuff.

So off I went with the barrow loaded with everything (absolutely no lifting for me for a while).

I had a brain wave whilst doing the task. Because I had no scissors I could not tie the canes together sooo........

About 3 feet from the ground, I tied one end of the twine, and added more bits until it stretched from one end to the other (with about 4 foot spare that I had to wind around and around the other end!)

Then, (and this is the clever part) I managed to split the twine with my fingers and nails, (ruining a few in the process) and found that it was made up of lots of threads. (Are you still with me thus far?)

I then could make a 'hole' in the bale twine, and push the cane through it, and it held fast. The more canes I added the tighter the hold. And they do need to be held tight as we get horrendous winds all the time as we are exposed.

I had to go on the hunt for more, and took some from the fruit cage, broccoli cage, and some of the bird scarers had to be used - so I had to make more out of shorter canes.

Hey presto an hour and a half later I had one row! It would have taken half the time had I got scissors and was not injured.

I need to cut off the dangly bits - must remember to get some scissors for up there.

I bet you are wondering why I have put the twine so low down aren't you.

Reason one - the nearer the ground the stronger the support and less damage due from the winds. When loaded with climbing beans they soon get blown down (well, she says rather smugly, mine didn't last year).

Reason two - if the canes cross over that low down, it is far easier to pick the beans, as they hang down away from the canes, in a similar fashion to grapes, as you will see in the summer.

I just need to buy more canes now to slot in next to the ones I fitted - but I am sure that you get the idea. Or you will when I have finished it.

The green 'path' I put down had membrane underneath and was a bit of rubbish that was amongst the weeds. I take it up every winter and then put it back down now.

Great as it keeps the weeds down, is a removeable path and nice to kneel on when plantng and harvesting the beans.

Three lovely large eggs again from Adelaide, KoKKo and Ginger. I moved their run so that they had a different view - daft aren't I?

Oh, I nearly forgot - my treasured and hard earned purple sprouting broccoli - another basket picked today.

It tastes even better than it looks. Was it worth spending hours picking caterpillars off it all summer?

Well now that I have forgotten the 'pain' and the heat and the squashed ones under my knees, and the ones that fell all over my head and down my back and front when I knocked against the tall plants - yuk - then it was!


  1. Just discovered you're back blogging as allotment lady-so glad I kept you on my favourites!!!

  2. Thanks Jean - there are still more photos to go on, but they are slow loading - it will take some time so will do them later.

  3. That purple sprouting broc looks amazing, if mine turn out half as good as that this season I'll be happy. Your idea with the bean canes is brilliant! Another fantastic tip from the Allotment Lady!

  4. you may know this any way but thought I would tell you incase you didn't. If you can get some straw, arkansas people can get in a bale, you put it around your strawberries and that keeps the weeds back and also keeps the berries clean if rain falls while the berries are ripening. also when I used to plant a lot of onions I made a bed about 3 feet across and how ever long you need then I planted my onions in rows across the bed and far enough apart that would allow you to hoe between the cross row to culitave the onions and keep weeds at bay. i also would go into the onion bed after a rain and pull the weeds also. that makes for a good way to grow onions. up until 20 years ago I and most people that gardened grew enough onions for the year. we would dry then and hang in bunches by tying 5 or 6 together and then hang them in a building that would keep them dry. now we can't buy onions sets that will keep over 4 or 5 weeks. I think it is the seed companys that have developed a onion that they sell us that wont keep on purpose. so we have to buy from the wholesale company.I also always used chicken dropping on onions for fertlizer.Big business is a poweful thing in this country. the tomato plants are the same way, that we buy, they are hard as a rock and have no acid taste. I have grown my own sets this year from a company that i found on the net that was avertiseing hierloom seeds. I hope when I get my tomatos they have a taste. sorry for such a long comment but thats what you get when you stop blogging .

  5. Thanks Mildew

    The bean pole thing idea was mainly because my back is wrecked for the moment, and I thought it through - not like me at all LOL

    It was comfortable tying the string low down, and I thought back to last year stretching on tippy tip toes to the tops of the branches and crawling on hands and knees trying to find them, and bending down rummaging around the middle.

    So I thought - hmmm lowest point of gravity stuff that I remembered from school or somewhere, in relation to weight. Then I thought of a fishing rod -and bingo.

    Logic tells me is should work - but I will wait and see.

    Last year and the year before, I had two rows of bale across, then each individual branch was tied in at the top to the string and the one on the opposite side. Took ages putting up and taking down, but the only way to guarantee they stayed upright.

    Your blog is looking good - I like the layout too.

    Thanks for the comment - can you let people know that I am back please.


    Yes I do my strawberries exactly the same way. I got one or two earwigs in the straw though, who I think might have been responsible for a few holes, and the odd slug.

    I am thinking of letting my chickens out for a rummage around them soon to see if they can find any baby slugs.

    I too do my onions in rows - approx 25 to 30 feet long with wide gaps between so that I had hoe, and on my knees weeding by hand with a trowel around the little onions so as not to disturb them.

    Shame about you not being able to get onion sets. Can you get seeds and sow them so they grow into little ones overwinter?

    And I am astonished that you can not buy tomato seeds. Flabbergasted - we have so many different varieties to choose from, even ones thatyou can grow in hanging baskets!

    Never aplogise for a long comment it is great that you take the time and people enjoy reading them

  6. I can get onion sets but they will not dry and keep over 5 weeks after thy are cured. i think it is the variday they sell us. i also can buy tomato seeds but they are the same as the plants we buy at the store. hard as rocks and no taste. these tomatoes were developed so that the grocery stores could keep them and would not ruin before they sold them. most of the seeds we get are from 3 main seeds companys. these 3 companies bought out the smaller companys about 15 years ago.but i have found some small growers on the net that claim thier seeds are more like we used to grow. so i am going to try them. I don't pull my onions any more. I just leave them in the ground and pull them as I need them course about January they freeze but that is better than having them rot after you harvest them as i said big business controls our lives in this country.

  7. onion seeds don't grow here not long enough growing season or winter to cold. when i live in california we planted onion in the fall and by next fall you had big onions but can't do that here.

  8. The broccoli looks amazing.


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