Saturday, 17 June 2006
Today was another hot day, so I decided to just go up the allotment and let the girls out and collect the eggs………and maybe start on the fruit cage.
Under gardener said that he would come with me, just for a look see.
So we went in my little old banger which is always loaded up with my ‘junk’ that is needed up the allotment.
First disappointment was that there were the remains of an egg shell in the run. It must be today’s as I moved their run yesterday. There were two eggs in the nest untouched thank goodness.
As I couldn’t reach the eggshell in the run, and didn’t fancy dismantling it all to do so, I shook a strong mixture of mustard, pepper, and horseradish, seed mixture (which is powerful stuff which I use in cooking) through the bars and covered the eggshell. Did it put them off? Not in the slightest, when I let them back in their run a few hours later, they tucked into the seeds and then the eggshell!
I saw Tim as I was going home and he said that he had some chickens that did that, and nothing he did would stop them, so he had to pull their necks! Hmm – I don’t think I will go down that route.
Under gardener was chatting to our neighbour Mike who was strimming some of his plot. He is a bit overwhelmed and fed up at the moment, but in all fairness, you can’t have allotments as big as ours and only spend a few hours, (if that) on it each week. You have to keep things under control especially the dock, thistle, and bind weeds – I spend more time digging up weeds than anything else.
The 'newbies' look at my plot and don't realise that I work up there for at least 23 hours a week minimum.
So whilst they were chatting, and talking football, I got on with the fruit cage. In the winter I cut down the summer raspberries leaving just 5 stems per plant, lifted up the black membrane, dug it all over, and dug in barrow loads of muck and replaced the membrane.
Left to its own devices it had gone crazy! The raspberries had shot up and there were more than double the amount of canes, plus runners too. There were rogue dock weeds here and there 5ft tall in places which were difficult to reach amongst the fruit bushes. It was like fighting my way through a thick forest – so there was nothing for it, but to cut all the raspberries down except a few on the perimeter. It sounds awful waste and a shame as they had little fruit on a lot of last years canes, but I do have some elsewhere further down the plot and with just those I had plenty to give away and freeze. So I cut them down and UG dug out the roots. We had at least six wheel barrows full – heaped high – to take down to the huge compost bin next to the hedge where we put things that will take a while to rot down. We have pulled up the membrane and left it up, so that I can dig it over and add more muck. Getting rid of a lot of the raspberries has revealed the strawberry plants with fruits on which should now get some light to ripen them.
On the left hand side of the fruit cage, the currant bushes have doubled their size this year which was a bit of a shock as they are all touching like a hedge, despite planting them spaced according to the instructions. The good news is that for the first time, and at last, they are bearing fruit. Some of the branches are so loaded that they are touching the ground. I am not sure what to do about them, and I will have to read up to see how to prune them, as they fruit on old wood, but there will be so much of it, it will need cutting back.
My original solitary gooseberry bush in the corner, from which I took cuttings is now ‘fenced in’ by the currants so I will have to carefully get to it, to pick the berries.
There are some lovely strawberry plants, so I am hoping for a nice little harvest from them, especially as the ones outside were such a disappointment.
I am also fighting back against the rabbits. I have cut down the weeds that have sprouted up along the fence and have put heavy wood all the way along the side that I think they are getting in – it will be interesting to see what happens over the next week. They have now eaten right down all my wonderful Oriental poppies, the smaller Delphinium plants, more of the Achilleas and the Rudbeckia. They do not eat the rhubarb, gooseberries, roses, and the asparagus ferns, and now that the broad beans are ready to harvest they have left them alone too. They have dug so many holes though and had a go at lots of flower roots.
My task for next week is to replace the climbing, French and Runner bean plants that the rabbits ate – with seeds – or maybe I will grow them at home and plant them out again later. I need to grow on some more cucumber plants too as they have all been eaten, and I might put in some more butternut squash seeds.
I am really pleased with how the fruit cage is looking now after all our hard work and we have dug out the dock weeds. We will no doubt get more, it is inevitable with all the seeds that have been blowing over the past few years.
My last task – a nice one to end on – was to dig up a potato plant to see if there were any new potatoes. I actually didn’t even need to dig them.
Where I had earthed the plants up and kept the rows weeded and clean, I only had to rub away the soil and it revealed lovely and clean new potatoes.
My hard work over the autumn and winter preparing the soil was worth all the effort. I barrowed over so many barrow loads of well rotted manure and dug it in, and it has really paid off. From one plant we had enough potatoes for two large meals for 2.
Last year I planted the potatoes on virgin soil where we had cleared and weeded a plot for them. We were very happy with the yield and had so many that we shared them around family, and friends and neighbours – but I grew twice as many as I have this year, and am getting double the yield per plant this year than I did last.
All of which reinforced my reason for growing my own food despite the disappointments and crop failures! And when we had some for lunch I was reminded of how wonderful home grown potatoes taste – from plot to plate within one hour.
My spirits have now lifted, my enthusiasm has now returned. So much so that after spending three and a half hours up the allotment this morning, after lunch and a rest, I spent another couple of hours transplanting chillies, asters, and tomatoes.
I have even potted up the Brussels sprout stalks that the rabbits had left after their feast. There is only about 1 inch of stalk, but I rescued them all, and put them in compost and watered them, and today I noticed that each one had the signs of a tiny weeny new leaf, so I have now put them in their own individual pots, with the hope that they will re-grow. You never know do you, they might.
My lean-to has never looked so tidy, with all the pots neatly stacked and trays of potted up plants. The chillies I have put in a plastic mini green house, so I hope that they like it there and I get chillies for the first time.
I should really take it easier tomorrow as I am being ‘paid back’ for doing so much today, but it is such a nice feeling to have achieved so much.
If possible, I will harvest the broad beans, and some more gooseberries from the bush in the fruit cage, and some redcurrants if there are some ripe. They looked very pink today, so there might be some.
The weather is still scorching hot with no rain for many days – apart from a shower one evening when we were away – Tuesday night – but the next day there was no sign of having had any rain at all.
Thanks for all your wonderful messages, I do read them and take your advice on board.
Have a good weekend