Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Never, Ever, At All........

.......have I used a hosepipe as early as 27th March. But the site water has been turned on, it's hot and dry-as-a-bone, and I'm paying for it. So why not?

Long story short, first find the tap. Our water connections are set into metal boxes sunk into the ground with hinged lids flush to the ground surface. There's a deeply-buried little brass tap and a separate threaded connection for a hose connection fitting. Over winter these boxes fill with silt & sediment which has to be dug out and all the fittings cleaned. Last year it fell to me to excavate it. Guess what, this year....it fell to me to excavate it.

Mind you, the year before last some bar-steward pinched my lovely brass hose connector out of the box - I guess there's no chance of THEM stepping up to do some excavating??? [Stop rambling - Editor].

Long hose short, it takes two 50 metre hoses to reach the bottom of my plot. That's a LONG hose (100 metres in fact!). But it worked and five of my six butts are now brim full of lovely clear water. My sixth butt (What is this man? Some kinda brown-rice, hippy, freak? How many butts does a regular guy have?) has a leak in the bottom (Ha! Well, where else, eh? It ain't gonna have a leak in the top) and needs repair. With concrete.

Titter ye not. Look out for a further post soon on how I've concreted my butt.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


And so would you be if you'd:

  • strimmed all my still-way-too-many paths
  • emptied last year's compost bins and started this year's
  • started rehabilibilitatatatatating the ancient greenhouse foundations left behind by the previous tenant.

Taking these in order:

The paths look a lot tidier, and that therefore makes me feel I've done something worthwhile

The compost bins; oh, the compost bins. Last year's bright idea was to use two old wheelie bins as compost bins, tucked away neatly at the bottom of the plot, quietly decomposing & making lots of lovely compost for this year. Which, by and large, they did and kept it all tidy and clutter-free. So what's the problem then? Getting the chuffers out again, that's the problem. I bet you've never tried moving a wheelie bin (one of which, by the way, no longer has wheels) brim full of rotted down compost, aka earth. They were VERY VERY HEAVY.

But not any more, and I shan't do that again. I'll draw a veil over the effort involved, suffice to say that Archimedes' principle of the very long lever was re-invented, along with various words probably not known to Archimedes. How many hernias does a chap need? The rotted-down compost is spread out and the remnants have started a new heap, all by themselves and without encouragement by me (I was too pooped by then and I think the remnants took pity on me).

And then (has he no limits - or sense?) I started on the eyesore at the bottom of the plot. This was clearly once a greenhouse and shed. The foundations of the greenhouse, and a central path, are still there, and there is a clear shed-shaped area next to it. Part of this year's plan is to clear it all, grow a catch-crop in the former greenhouse beds and rebuild the greenhouse, with a new shed, in the autumn. To be fair, that was last year's plan too but events just got in the way. Retired now; watch this space.

But today was about ripping the chuffing brambles out. It was hot and ideally I needed to be wearing as little clothing as possible, commensurate with public decency (shame!), but if I'd done that I'd have been ripped to shreds by the brambles. So it was hot and sweaty work.

It has, though, put me in a good place for next weekend because:
  • much of the clearing is done, and;
  • it's exposed all the rubbish which needs to go the skip we're having next weekend.

We're having a site skip! Skippity, skippity skip!!! One skip for 90+ allotments, for two days. I don't want to look a gift skip in the mouth and I'm genuinely pleased it's coming but I bet it'll be full to overflowing by lunchtime on the first day. Hey Ho; early start next Saturday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Well, they're in

The vines that is.

No prizes for planting them in a straight line but, hey ho, I can train them later.

And apparently the green wax covering is normal; the vine will shrug it off as it grows. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No vampires here....

....at least not after transplanting 100 Garlic plants today. I'm rather pleased with them.

And the Lovage,

And the Blackthorn (fingers crossed for lots of sloes again; the sloe gin is yummy)

And the Sorrel. I hadn't realised that Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) is a perennial but on the evidence here it looks pretty indestructible. It certainly livens up a salad but the received wisdom is to not eat too much of it because the oxalic acid in it can exacerbate a tendency to kidney stones. Beware!

Monday, March 12, 2012

I wasn't expecting a big box....

....and, sure enough, I didn't get one.
This is the box with the grape vines in it.

They're bare root so of course you can pack a lot in a small space.

And because they're bare root they're correspondingly cheaper than if you buy pot-grown (which cost arms-and-legs if you want more than one or two).

They're doing a passable impression of a candle at the present because they've all got the 'top end' (forgive the technical language) coated in thick green wax. Don't know what I'm supposed to do about that. Marshalls have [un]helpfully enclosed a growing guide which describes pruning your grape vine but says sod all about planting it and what to do if it turns up covered in candle wax. And in the growing guides on their website there's a similar lack of info about grape vines. Come on, Marshalls; how hard can it be???? Not good enough.

Howsoever, I'm just gonna plant them at what seems like a sensible distance, which happily coincides (Ha!) with the space I've got available for them, and assume that as they burst into growth they'll fling the candle wax off with wild abandon, as you do.

I should have got their supporting framework (see, I'm not a complete know-nowt on this) in place by now, but I haven't. It'll all have to be done post hoc and after they're planted. Post hoc, eh? Get you, simple Northern oik, showing off. Post hole would be better.

More pics when I've planted them. Try to contain your excitement.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Tidy Territory

I've been tidying my edges.

I do like nice sharply-defined edges, and if you do them at this time of year it's easy to keep them sharp for the whole season. All the soil you cut away from the edges goes on to the main body of the plot to make it deeper and more easily worked.

It also helps to cut back the ever-increasing width of the central path. This path is a communal resource shared with the other plotholder who uses the communal gate. Curiously, maintenance of the communal path (ie. strimming, regularly, sometimes weekly in the height of the season) seems to be done only by me. So reducing the width of the path extends my territory slightly and reduces my maintenance load because there's less to strim.

Is this becoming an Issue in my mind? Yes, just a tad. And, petty though this may seem (is!), I've given up strimming 'their' border and now opt to do only mine and leave theirs unkempt. Such fun.

And on the other side of the plot, I've reduced the width of the path simply because it's too big. It's always been too big and hasn't been cultivated in the 7 years I've had the plot. And of course it needs strimming too. The whole thing is just wasting too much space; I do need a path there, just not so much of it. So digging it today was very satisfying, not least because, untouched for at least 7 years, it needed a pick-axe!

I love gardening with a pick-axe; the weight and heft of it, the sharpness of the blade, the swing of it, the way the weight of the tool does most of the work for you, the way you can't stop it once you've started the swing, and the raw excitement as it whistles unstoppably past your toes to bury itself in the earth. You only need to miss once.

But the hidden theme here is that I'm also carving out space for the imminent arrival of the Grape Vines. Marshalls have emailed to say they are on their way. We're in a state of high excitement in Wilbury Mansions.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Without a doubt....

....the season has opened. March 1st (St David's Day) has passed and as my ties with the Northeast become progressively weaker so my Welsh connections grow stronger. Leek soup and lots of daffodils. There's tidy.

Actually, thinking about it, leeks are a nice linkage between the Northeast and Wales. Emblematic of both areas. And I never fail to grow leeks, and have never failed in my growing of leeks, if you see the subtle difference between those statements. Anyway, enough of this rootsy stuff (rootsy! well, it is an allotment blog!); this is all by way of introducing a surge of activity to to get the Great Plant Factory up and running again.

The greenhouse has just been ticking over during the winter, as they do, with a paraffin heater to keep the frost out. But it was also home to a big batch sowing of winter salads made in mid-November, as well as over-wintering Geraniums and vernalising Garlic. All those salads survived the heavy weather and have begun to grow a bit faster, so today they've all been ripped unseemly from their comfy beds and transplanted. They'll be feeling it a bit today and will need a bit of nursing through an imminent cold patch but this is the earliest I've ever been with a viable salad crop. The trick, which I traditionally fail at, will be to maintain successional sowings throughout the year. Ask me again in Octember.

So here it is (Merry Xmas, everybody's having fun - oops, sorry, tripped over a timewarp there). From front to back there are Radicchio, assorted Petunias & Fuchsias, Spicy Green Mix (Spicy Green Mick's Sustainable Oirish Curry, bedad), Winter Gem lettuce, Mizuna & Rocket, in the so-this-season pink pots, followed by Trailing Gerontiums, Lobelia, Impatiens and yet more Geraniums in various gay hues, mostly red, as well as the dozen or so which over-wintered successfully. Yes, we (strictly speaking, I) do like Geraniums.

And on the right-hand side, behold the overwintered Geraniums and a reek (the new collective noun) of Garlic, fetchingly out-of-focus.

Quietly holding centre-back position is of course Dinosaur Tree - my Wollemi Pine - who has come through the winter completely unscathed (well, he did miss the worst of the cold by taking shelter in the garage). I'm very proud of him and looking forward to seeing what he does this year.

Meanwhile, in Seeds Corner, I opened the batting with Tomatoes (x6 varieties), Chillies, Leeks (Seville - baby variety). They're all in the conservatory or a heated propagator in the garage. Phew, time for a quick G&T, methinks.

LATER - supping it now. Ahh.