Subscribe with Bloglines At last I've got my plot!: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Our local shop gets an award

This little article appeared in our local newspaper (The Isle of Wight County Press) today, hidden away in the inside. Surely it should have been on the front page....!

The shop has almost everything you'd want. The veg are good and I often get them here when I run out of home-grown.

On Monday Tesco's are opening a brand new Extra store only two miles away from this shop, on the site of a smaller one which will close tomorrow evening. I do hope it doesn't take too much of their trade.
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Gardeners' World gets an allotment!

In Cleve West's blog (unfortunately discontinued today) he mentions that Gardeners' World particularly Joe Swift, have taken on an allotment! Looks like the programmes will be more interesting than usual this year!!!!

It is a one hour programme tonight...and I expect I'll have to put up with the quiet chorus of "plunts", repeated every time she says it, by my husband!

9pm and I have just watched the programme.....and I'm disappointed! They didn't do the Allotment bit, other than a shot of Joe Swift wrestling with a huge rotovator and slip-sliding all over what looked like solid yellow clay. (I wouldn't have brought all that to the surface if it was my'll take years to produce anything....!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More seed sowing!

It has been spitting all day so just a spell in the tunnel sowing more seeds.
This time it was...
Mint 4 modules
Dill 4 ditto
Chives 8 modules
Little Gem 8 modules
Marigolds 'Spanish Brocade' 30 modules
Sweet Pea Dwarf 32 rootrainers
Nasturtiums 20 modules
Cerinthe Purpurescens (?) 8 modules (that's all the seeds there were in the pack!!! I was staggered!)

I bought some more seeds this morning but haven't sown them yet. Limnanthes Douglassii (poached egg plant) for sowing under the gooseberry and raspberry bushes at the plot. King Richard Leeks, for sowing in modules 3 per sq and planting out as sown and then harvesting them slim.

I also bought myself another long handled fork for weeding a the plot. I keep forgetting to take the one from home when I go.

Late this afternoon I harvested a large carrier bag of broccoli, and some small globe artichoke heads. I am going to eat them Cyprus style; as whole raw baby veg. You cut them in quarters, pull out the choke, and serve with a good squeeze of lemon. I haven't tried it yet. I'll report on how it goes. (The recipe book says it has "a remarkable aftertaste, which leaves you reaching for a drink" better have them when I haven't got to drive.)


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Polytunnel update!

A fruitful day spent gardening at home as DH was poorly in bed and I had to man (woman?!!!) the phone. I had intended a plot day but I had more than enough to do here so it wasn't really a big deal.

I felt that the path down the middle of the tunnel needed edging as the soil was rather higher than the path and was spilling continuously. I didn't want wooden edges as these eventually rot (the deep bed wood was rotten already after only 3 seasons) and it encourages woodlice.

We have a large number of tiles left over from a building project here so I used them to edge with. I am pleased with my efforts even though it is obvious that I didn't use a line.....!

I have installed the irrigation in both beds. The one in the RH bed (not the hose laying on the top) is a seep hose which I have buried. The one on the LH bed is a perforated hose which I have laid on the top of the soil. The bit of hose which is laying on top of the RH bed is a hose from a butt which takes water from a small area of roof. This hose will be moved around as needed. I had a job to keep it all adequately watered last year and hope this will solve the problem.

I turned in all the manure I had spread in here after Jeyes Fluiding the beds last week. In another two weeks time I will plant the strawberry runners which you can see in the rootrainers here into the beds along the path edges. They should produce an early treat for me when working in the tunnel.
This summer the tomatoes will go along the back wall, on the very right. The cucumbers will go in the far left corner. The lemon tree (which has lost a lot of its leaves over the winter but has 4 lemons coming on it) will be moved around to wherever it isn't in the way. And the fig, in the big pot at the back. will go somewhere outside when it warms up a bit. I think it is time I found a permanent place for it in the garden. When I get on with re-modelling the front garden i should find a place for it against the house wall....south-west facing.

When I walked through the plots with the dogs this afternoon I saw that Chris had spread the manure we moved to his plot. So his hungry soil should be much better this year.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Seed Sowing Marathon

My back is still complaining after the way I treated it on Sunday afternoon, so I played safe and did a standing job in the tunnel this afternoon.

Here is a list of the seeds I sowed a record for me!

Broad Beans 'The Sutton' 60 modules (stood high on the racks hoping mice don't find them)
Pea 'Kelvedon Wonder' 60 modules (similar position)
Leek 'Lyon Prizetaker' 30 modules (3 seeds per module)
Cabbage 'Earliest of All' 10 modules (2 per module)
Brussels Sprout 'Evesham Special' 10 modules (2 per module)
Cabbage 'Offenham 2 Flower of Spring' 10 modules (2 per module)
Cauliflower 'Snowball' 10 modules (2 per module)
Shallot Seeds F1 Hybrid 'Matador' in a pot for transplanting if they come up. (I was horrified to see that these had been treated with some chemical, and had a hazard warning on the packet. It was Kings Seeds....I won't look for them again.)
Lettuce 'Winter Density@ in 12 modules
Spinach 'Viroflay' in 10 modules (seed bought in Portugal)
Strawberry 'Wonderful Wimbledon' in 40 modules (covered in clingfilm)
Herbs....Dill (10 modules), Parsley (5 modules), Summer Savoury (10 modules), Parcel (5 modules), Chervil (10 modules) (Most of these for companion planting with various veg later.)

These are all on racks in the tunnel and we shall see if they germinate. I know it is a bit early for some and a bit late for others!!!

I also meant to sow lots of marigolds for companion planting too, (and because I like to see them all over the plot) but I'll get round to that tomorrow.

I didn't photographany of this afternoon's efforts as trays of modules with soil and plant labels in are a little (or a lot!!!!) boring!


Monday, February 25, 2008

Allotment Plan for 2008

Prompted by another blog I read ( ) I have discovered a garden planning website ( that permits free garden planning for a 30 day period. I have been playing with it this evening and have entered last years crops on the site, and then endeavoured to plan this year's crops. This is the result.
The site is clever in that it warns you when you are planting things in the same spot two years running.

I have only guesstimated the size of the beds, so the tools which give ideas of how many plants to have are a bit out, but this that I have done will do for now.
The tools are quite easy to master and I think I may re-do this tomorrow as I already see things about this first attempt which are a bit of a mess and which I'm sure I can improve.
And I have to do one for the back garden too!
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Article about No-dig Gardening

I came across this article today and thought others might like to see it too......


Sore back, hips, knees, ankles and wrists!

Following on from my tiling marathon on Saturday, I had to further exert myself yesterday afternoon when the manure was delivered to the plot......or rather to the hauling way 60 feet from the plot. Four of us shared two loads, but one didn't turn up (so I paid for his and we all moved his bit to his plot.....we hope he is suitably embarrassed!)
The muck is lovely, and I now have a pallet-compost-bay full, plus a couple of barrowloads tipped on the spud-bed-to-be.

And...the sweep came this morning at 8am to do our one chimney. I asked if he'd let me have the soot and have got about a quarter of a bin-bag full. I believe it is beneficial for onions so will take it to the plot later. However the sweep also said that it is good for roses. You take a heaped dustpanful and sprinkle it round each rose. He said it will help them by making the soil acid, and it will stop blackspot. We'll see! I have one or two roses which had blackspot last year so I'll give it a go.

And, because I am so so so stiff from yesterday there will be no gardening today even though the sun is shining and the temperature climbing by the minute. So I will possibly get round to doing the proper copy of my garden plan for this year. We'll see!!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Planning this year's cropping.

I haven't been near the plot since Wednesday as I have had a heavy load of commitments keeping me away. I was doing a lot of physical work on a volunteer project this morning and early afternoon and had no more energy when I got home but my head was I have spent a while planning next years cropping . I have roughed out a plan, which I will draw out neatly and laminate the next time I am stuck indoors when it rains. Then I will record it on here too.

Tomorrow our manure will be delivered at the we'll be barrowing for an hour or so. I know it is heavy work but every barrowload has such potential for making the plot fertile that I don't mind at all. The tired feeling after that kind of work is actually a pleasure.

Planning the garden beds this year has involved a lot of referencing in my gardening books. I particularly dipped into my two Bob Flowerdew companion planting books, and the very very good book by Charles Dowding "Organic Gardening The Natural No-Dig Way" (I'd do a link to these books on Amazon but for some very strange reason I haven't been able to get onto the Amazon site for over a month now. I keep getting the "The webpage cannot be found message" when I try to visit. It doesn't matter how I try to access the, a memo from Amazon, a book reference/link on someone else's blog....none of them work.)

I like the theory of this 'no dig' book. I am trying to not walk on the beds I created at the plot, and the only digging I want to do, other than digging up spuds and pernicious weeds, is a little weeding with my long handled weeding fork. This has the benefit of not bringing up weed seeds from underground, which should lead to there being fewer and fewer weeds every year, and also benefits the microscopic organisms in the soil which have preferred layers in which they live and don't benefit from being all mixed up by digging. Charles Dowding grows salads for market and has not dug his deep beds for 6 years (when the book was written) It started out as grassland, and he just puts 5cm of manure or compost on the beds every year to smother and prevent weed growth, and lets the worms do the digging. As gardening is something I want to be doing right into my old age giving up digging seems to be the sensible way to go. So I'm giving it a go....!

Companion planting too is something I feel should be a good idea to try. I have used marigolds and basil with the tomatoes in the greenhouse for years and have never had whitefly. This year I plan to follow Bob's advice and sow Poached Egg plant under the gooseberry bush, Tansy and Marigolds under the raspberries, nasturtiums with the pumpkins and squashes, summer savoury with the onions and shallots, and chamomile, dill, peppermint, and sage with the cabbages. That should be enough to be going on with.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

At Last I've Got A Title!!!!

Robin commented the other day that my posts would be better if they had a title. I have puzzled over this for some time. I had noticed that others have titles but couldn't see how to put one on my blog. Finally tonight I found where to tick a box to get the title box on the dashboard compose page and NOW I can do titles! Hurrah!


Pruning the old vine we decided to have a go at the vine that grows all through the shrubs and trees at the back of the garden. We do get lots of tiny grapes off it each Autumn, but would like some bigger ones. So we have cut off yards and yards of old wood and cut back the fruiting spurs to two buds. The resulting long vine that we kept is draped all along the fence for about 8 feet. This might be too much to have left to grow but we were scared to chop off any more. Hopefully the vine will be able to cope with swelling the grapes produced this coming year to a decent size.

I spent an age afterwards cutting the vines into 8 inch lengths. This was following Bob Flowerdew's advice that vine prunings make good kindling. The pieces are now stored in the shed ready for fires. We'll leave them to dry out a bit before using them.

I also started clearing shrubs away from the spot where we want to plant the two new vines. Then I got carried away and started on the brambles (thankfully thornless!) which are beginning to take over behind the polytunnel.

Then I walked the dogs before my back finally snapped!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A successful foray to the Garden Centre

I walked into a bargain at the local Garden Centre this morning. On Monday I looked at some organic poultry manure pellets for £6.99 a tub, and decide they were a bit dear...then at Busy Bees this morning I saw the same stuff at "buy one for £7.49 get an extra one for 1p"! So I got two!

Moving through the shop I also saw some grape vines for £9.99 each. DH has always fancied having a vineyard, so I got him two! LOL I have no idea where we will put them; preferably somewhere where Freddie can't cock his leg all over them, so most likely at the back of the Kitchen Garden.

One is "Muscat de Something or Other" (white), the other is "Boskoops Glory" (a dark coloured grape). I shall be googling later for some advice.

DH mowed the back lawn today, so the asparagus bed is now mulched.

I finger weeded two more beds in the back garden this afternoon.

And I ordered a load of manure for the plot. It will be coming Sunday guess what I'll be doing Sunday afternoon....shovelling! It looks like I'll be having more than the 1/3 of the load I'd been planning. Someone else wants some manure, but not a whole I'll have half that load, and a 1/3 of the almost a whole load for my plot. It will carry on the good work started last year.

Last night I was at a loss as to what to read to send me to sleep, so I found my copy of "The 3000 Mile Garden" to read again. This was an Anniversary present from DH about 15 years ago. It is time I read it again. If anyone hasn't read it, it is a book of letters between Roger Phillips and Leslie Land (a lady gardener in Upstate New York, US) comparing notes about the vast differences in gardening techniques and the problems faced in each of their gardens. The UK writer was the chief gardener for one of the London gardens...Eccleston Square. His descriptions of that are wonderful. The NY Garden is the total opposite. Covered in snow for months on end, then baked in the sun for a few months. A good read. (It is where I first read about Brandywine tomatoes.)

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A full day of gardening, at home and at the plot.

I am so stiff I can hardly move! That's because I have gardened with my lazy body all day and now I've stopped it's hurting. But I have got such a lot done that I don't care. It'll be ready to go again in the morning so I'm not bothered.

Firstly I did the greenhouse beds with Jeyes fluid. Then I spread the bagged manure all over them.
Then I sowed my sweet peas, verbena bonariensis (want them for the re-modeled front garden), and started the shallots off in modules. They need a bit of help as they are rather late going in (should have done them in October!). They are the ones I kept from last years crop to start off this year. They are about an inch diameter and I got so fed up with peeling them for pickled shallots (DH's favourite) that I decided to plant them rather than eat them.
I have a few more (about 100!) that are even smaller and there is no way I'm going to peel them. I think I might plant them too just to see whether they grow a bit or whether they will just make hundreds more tiny babies...!
After that I finger weeded two more of the deep beds. The first bed was the one with the onion sets (Radar) planted out last Autumn. They are only about 10% up. I think the others will have rotted. I will get some sets of another variety to augment them March I think. I can't really justify leaving them in the bed as they are so sparsely scattered. I'm tempted to move them all up to one end.
I chose the Radar ones to be cropping just when the last year's main crop of onions run out....looks like we'll be disappointed.

The other bed that got "cleaned was the leek bed. I pulled out all the ones that were going to seed, and the biggest ones for soup tomorrow. I left a few finger sized ones for another day. That bed is now ready for whatever comes next in the rotation....I think it'll be runners.

DH mowed the front lawn and I mulched the strawberry bed, cleaned yesterday and already being used by grateful cats as a latrine, in an attempt to stop the cats' attentions.

This afternoon I went to the plot and hoed a bit more and cleared the bed ready for the spuds. I'll put the first earlies in that bed next week when the moon is waning!!

I also started sieving the compost ready to go on that bed. It is lovely stuff.

And I tidied the shed out. It needed it. I can now lay my hands on whatever I need at a moments notice.

Now I deserve a cuppa and a sit down before it is time to start on dinner.....!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Catching up at the plot

After spending the morning rattling around the Island finding potting compost (John Innes Seed compost and J I No 1 ), bagged manure, Jeyes Fluid, some seeds and a shrub (Mimosa bush) I was able to spend some time at the plot.

I pruned the Autumn Bliss Raspberry canes; picked 5 globe artichokes; picked a carrier bag of broccoli; dug up two carrier bags of Desiree potatoes. These were just beginning to sprout so not before time. I think the ploy of leaving them until I wanted to eat them paid off this time.

Malcolm saw them and said they were "B****y marvellous!" And he marvelled at the artichokes too. He put in two rows of early potatoes yesterday. As my Desiree were sprouting I think I will follow suit and put mine in soon.

Tomorrow I will take advantage of the sun (we are promised) to have a good hoe around all the beds and the paths, and to get the two spud beds ready. I did start hoeing today but ran out of time as we had an appointment this afternoon.

Now I have a supply of fresh seed compost I'll be able to start sowing seeds in the tunnel. I will sow some leeks, sweet peas, broad beans, and broccoli in modules, ready for planting out later. The moon planting guide says that we should plant top fruiting crops when the moon is waxing (growing), and roots when it is waning. The next full moon is the until then I'll be sowing the top crops I just listed, and after then I'll plant spuds. I'll also try a row or two of carrots in the tunnel (the 14 days to leave it after sterilising with Jeyes will be up before the new moon.)

I am a bit disappointed with the onions I sowed before winter. Radar are supposed to good for overwintering, but I don't see much evidence of them in the bed. I ordered them a long time ahead as I missed out the previous year (and they just kept the money and put my order in for the following year). I don't think I'll bother with them again and just rely on sets from the garden centre in future.
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Farmers' Market prices.

I was just researching into local veg producers, as I do need to buy some veg now my home grown are running out. I looked at Bigbarn website and typed in my postcode and found that in Ryde, on Friday mornings, in the St John's Ambulance Hall, in Newport Street, they have a Country Market each week. I shall certainly give them a visit next week to see what they have to offer.

There is a Farmer's Market in Newport on Friday mornings, but that would be adding 9 or 10 (x2) miles onto the foodmiles total and Ryde is much nearer. I have found too in the past that Farmer's Markets are rather pricey. They tend to cater to the well-heeled. At the one where we used to live they would sell loaves of bread for £2 and quiches for £7. Now I do agree that if people are too lazy to make a quiche then they probably deserve to be ripped off, but even so.... that is still a bit dear!

Hopefully the Country Market will be a bit more sensibly priced.

It always seemed odd to me that the farmers would charge so much for their stuff at the Farmers' Market. They are always saying in the press that farmers don't get enough for their produce from the supermarket chains......that the supermarkets buy cheap and then add a huge mark-up to the price. But I would have thought that if they charged the same price for their produce at the Farmers' Market as the supermarkets charge the public for the veg then they are still getting an awful lot more for their labours than if they sold to the supermarkets. They would also get flocks of people to buy the stuff....they'd be rich.But with their "exclusive" prices (the word "exclusive" used advisedly)....they do exclude the majority of us from buying their wares.


Polytunnel revamp picture

Here is the result of my work these past few days dismantling the wooden-framed deep beds in the tunnel and reverting to just planting in the soil. I now have an area of about 10ft square bare soil. I will order some of the compost that the local council sell (apparently they supply Isle of Wight Tomatoes so it can't be bad). It is £35 per huge 700L bag and that should be enough to spread all over this area to give the soil a bit of a boost. I shall also disinfect the soil with Jeyes Fluid. I need to do this as the soil has been used for 3 seasons now, and I can't face digging it all out. It is also time to wash the tunnel plastic inside and out. This improves the light transmission a lot. I use the car wash brush on it's full extension. I get very wet doing it so I'll wait until the east winds have gone.

The instructions say to saturate the soil with a solution of Jeyes and water, leave 7 days, then turn it in. Then you can plant in it 14 days later. If I do this soon it'll be ok for planting in well before I actually need to.

I have spread all that I had left of last year's potting compost (I keep it in the green bin), and tomorrow I need to re-stock it. I also need to install the irrigation system using that motley collection of hoses and drip hoses.

I had a bad head today so my gardening efforts were confined to finger weeding two of the garden deep beds. I do this sitting down, and it was very pleasant in the sun. The garden is fairly sheltered from the wind so it wasn't too cold.

I was amazed when weeding the asparagus bed to find the spears showing already....! I won't be cutting them this year as these are crowns I raised from seed and they need another year to build up their root system before I can start harvesting them. I can wait! (You can see bulbs coming up in the bed too. The soil was from an old flower bed and these volunteers are still coming up. I don't have the heart to pull them out.)

I also finger weeded the strawberry bed. I'm hoping for a good crop from these this year. I will start the Rumtopf again with them. We are eating last years now and I must say it is all worth the work. If they are not finished by June I will bottle what is left so we can use the pot again.

Tomorrow I will be paying a visit to the garden centre in the hope of finding everything I need. I hate shopping and one trip will have to do.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008


We have been back from Cyprus for a few days now, but are really only just getting over the trip back. I think we may have experienced some jet-lag as we have had that wading through treacle feeling that jet-lag gives. I find it hard to believe that it could be real jet-lag after just a 4 hour flight, and only a two hour time difference, but we have not felt great. Perhaps it is just our age!!!!!

I did feel an urge to do some gardening, even though it has been a very chilly wind for two days. I am a bit soft from spending mornings sitting in the sun(64deg) around a beautiful pool, under palm trees, but didn't want to get cold so this afternoon was spent in the polytunnel re-arranging things. I decided that I would abandon the deep bed arrangement in the tunnel this year as it is so difficult to keep it adequately watered. By just having ground level beds I can set up an irrigation system that will be gravity fed from the water butts around the house, and mean I don't have to carry water any more than necessary.

I have almost completed the task and will post photos of the finished article tomorrow....hopefully. The new arrangement will have the back 2/3 of the tunnel as one huge bed......10ftx10ft with a narrow beaten earth path through the middle to the back door of the tunnel. The first third of the tunnel will have the staging either side of the door.

I will soon be able to get in there to start the new season's seed sowing. I am itching to get started as I read my new issue of Kitchen Garden Magazine whilst on holiday and got very enthusiastic about the coming year on the plot and at home. I was able to give it much more attention than usual as I had time to read. I made notes on post-it notes (the yellow neon ones) as markers for things I must do. As it was the March Issue I have time yet to get it all done.

I bought a recipe book from Cyprus and read in there that Purslane is very much loved in salads in Cyprus. I bought some seeds from a garden centre out there and hope they will grow here for me. I will sow some in the tunnel and some in the back garden. I looked them up when I got home. Apparently there are two types....Summer and Winter. I think I must have the Summer is not hardy so it will have to be sown every year. I'll have to save seed.

One of the other blogs that I read daily (Musings from a Stonehead) has warned that he will be posting less frequently now that his busy time on his croft is coming up. It is a sad fact of blogging that when there is more to blog about there is less time to do it. My blog has been rather quiet during the winter as little is done to report on with an allotment in winter. Now the spring is almost here and work starts it will be more and more difficult to find time to share the experience......!

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