Sunday, March 23, 2008

Snow, sleet and rain

Friday was great, as although it was a bit windy, the hail and sleet held off until around 5pm. About 15 people helped out in our communal clear up, and we took two van loads of rubbish to the tip. The vacant plot looks so much better now, and is ready to let.

Since then it has been very cold and wet, with snow this morning, so haven't been able to get down to our plot - hope to get there and do few jobs this afternoon - the worms need some food! Instead, have talked to the plants at home a bit, sown some Lavender for planting out next year, and sown the Black Eyed Susan for flowering this year. My brother Mike, one of our expert advisors, has admired the broad beans and sweet peas in toilet rolls and recommended we plant them out in about two weeks, once this cold snap is over. Please let it be warm soon!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Will it rain?

Well its 7am and today we are having a communal clear up of a recently vacant plot - need to get it ready for reletting. Just hope it's not too wet and windy out there... It looks quite mild, no sign of the sleet that was forecast this morning.

I bought these seeds yesterday. The Lavender is for sowing and bringing on to plant out next year, but the Black Eyed Susan is for this year, to add to the climbers along the front fence of the plot.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Leeks and broccoli

This afternoon I sowed two varieties of leeks - Colossal, from the heritage seed library, and Hannibal from the organic garden catalogue. The colossal seeds were definitely larger than the Hannibal, so it will be interesting to see what happens. We have just finished eating the leeks sown in April 2007 - our last supper with them was a leek and cheese pie (served cold - with no pastry) from my favourite Greek cookery book.

The broccoli are Romanesco variety, given to us by our friend Bruce, who has helped out on the plot a few times.

I just had to transplant the Cosmos today - although they don't have any true leaves, because they were sown on the top of the compost, with a little vermiculite and had grown so tall, they were looking very fragile, and waving around. I decided they had a better chance if they were transplanted and set more soundly in some compost. Their roots were pretty sturdy - and after seeing a picture of Cosmos in the paper today, we are a bit concerned they are going to be pretty tall! That's OK though, just need to be prepared for it - these are definitely for the back row of the flower border. I sowed some more today as well - in case I kill off the first lot.

Allotment business

Versailles on the balcony
Originally uploaded by Marj Joly.
One of the things I've kept quiet about so far on this blog, is the "other" allotment business I get up to. I've been secretary of our society for five years now, a bit of a long time, but no one else seems to want to do it. Some of the jobs are a bit onerous, but some are fun.

One of the fun things I've done recently is to contact the first half of our waiting list to see if they are still interested in having a plot, and to find out more about their experience. Over the years we've had people join who know nothing about gardening, but we don't realise just how much they don't know until their plot is knee high in weeds - then it's a problem. So the grand plan is to find out a bit more about people in advance, so we can support them if needed when they first start. I am really enjoying finding out more about their experiences, and you also get to see just how enthusiastic people are.

This postcard was sent to me by someone on the waiting list - who also happens to be a friend - I love it, and want to know if it is how they see their allotment looking? We all have our own Versailles, maybe not so big, but its definitely good to have a plan for how you want your allotment to look. It's OK doing a bit here and there, but sometimes you end up with things in the wrong place, and then its a pain to change. So allotment tip of the day, spend time thinking about the overall plan, don't rush to put in permanent features too soon (like a pond, or a fruit tree), until you have had time to work out the best place for it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sore back

I've got an allotment back. Some lower back pain since last Thursday when I last did some digging - was in a bit of a hurry, which was stupid. It's not too bad, but niggles me early in the morning...and is aching now since I did some hoeing this afternoon, while it was dry.

The Cosmos have germinated, and have got very tall, very quickly. I am hoping they are meant to be like that, and it's not because they are too hot/not enough light etc. But they are making rapid progress - only a week since they were sown. So hope to pot them on later this week, and then try and control them a bit better. I hate waiting for slow germinators. The didiscus may take another two weeks to show themselves....snore...I can't wait that long. I want seedlings NOW!

It's meant to be cold tonight, so all the plants that were out on the balcony are now in, except the sweet peas and broad beans, which should cope with the colder weather. I am not convinced our balcony gets that cold anyway - its fairly sheltered, and we have a thermometer that always shows it is much warmer than the forecast. London seems to have these pockets of warmth, especially in the more built up areas.

The allotment keeps me awake at night. It should really be my PhD thesis keeping me awake, and it probably is subconsciously. But when I can't sleep I think of the warmer days, and all the fantastic vegetables and flowers we should have this year. Programmes like Monty Don's Around the World in 80 Gardens, don't help, as it just makes me want to grow more things, and go and see some of those fantastic Gardens. Then I spoke to my old school friend this afternoon. After over 20 years we have caught up with each other again to find we are both allotment gardeners - which was not a shared interest when we were 18. She was telling me how excited she is about her peas! I completely understand. Gordon says I talk more to my seedlings than I do to him - he is probably right!

We should have some rhubarb soon, which will please Gordon as he is a Rhubarb Person... I'm not so sure - it's OK if mixed up with other stuff I guess. I have bad memories of school rhubarb and custard, which always looked awful. I like the look of the plants though. It was transplanted and split up last year when we moved plots, and with a good feed of horse manure in the autumn is looking very very happy in its new home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Running out of room

Space is a problem. I've just transplanted 31 acrolinium, and 18 aster seedlings into individual pots. These are now taking up even more space in our one bedroomed flat. At least the wind has dropped so the broad beans and sweet peas have gone back outside on the balcony. The tomatoes have gone outside tonight as well as it is mild here, but will need to keep an eye on them. My spreadsheet tells me I should be sowing the broccoli, leeks and lettuce in modules this month, but they are just going to have to wait until there is a bit more space.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More seed sowing and stuff

I've sown some more seed this afternoon. I think I've sown parsley, but the seed packets fell out in my bag, as I have been carrying them to and fro from the allotment a lotm - they got mixed up with the dill so not entirely sure which is which. If its not parsley, then it is dill! Also sown coriander, basil, cosmos and didiscus.

The didiscus have to be kept without light until they germinate, whereas the cosmos need light. I don't really understand why this is the case, but expect it can be found somewhere or other on the web. The didiscus have nice little cardboard cut outs over them.

The last couple of days all the plants that were on the balcony have been brought indoors to protect them from the wind, which has been quite gusty here. I look up at the planes coming into city airport, and am glad I am on terra firma. So the flat is getting more and more like a greenhouse, and we are running out of windowsills. Hopefully soon I can get more things hardening off outdoors, to free up some space.

The problem with gardening is that it ruins your hands. My hands are very sore this week again. Some muscular aches, but also just rough skin and abrasions, making it difficult to do fine tasks.

The acrolinium almost have their true leaves, so hopefully can soon transplant them. The trouble is there are about 50 seedlings, so may have to be selective what I pot on. I hate discarding seedlings, I feel they all deserve a chance.

The asters are having a hard time, they will be very glad when I transplant them. They are so fragile and I nearly killed them off the other day with my watering from the top. They all sagged...and have stayed sort of lying down in the pots. But I stopped watering in time, so still have some upright seedlings left.

Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, aubergines and Hungarian wax hot peppers all alive and kicking.