June at Plot 4

May, of all the months, seems to fly by. I don’t know what it is, but it always seem to be a month that happens; before you even realise your in it. In terms of the allotment, it’s the month when everything grows. Everything including the weeds. In fact, I’m sure the weeds grow quicker. Still, there are benefits to this growth spurt; flowers emerge, bulbs swell and fruit forms.

Finally the allotment has started to offer us a reliable harvest. The broad beans that I planted way back in October/November have done brilliantly, perhaps aided by the mild winter. We’ve been picking them for a couple of weeks now and we’ve still got lots to go and another row or two developing. Those spring sowings are not quite doing as well as the overwintered variety, but hopefully the warm weather of June will help bring them on and even allow us a cheeky final sowing! Salad leaves have been doing well, although the leaves I sowed in the greenhouse were decimated by extreme heat one day (all shrivelled and crispy). The Swiss chard continues to give us a supply, as does the spinach, although both are beginning to go to seed now the weather hots up. This month has also seen me channelling my inner forager, with nettles for a risotto and elderflowers for cordial being harvested. The elderflowers in particular look like they will give a good harvest, so I must get round to making some more cordial, or even champagne and fritters. Oh yes, and we harvested the first strawberry (from the greenhouse) the other day!

As with last month, there’s been a lot of sowing going on.  Various crops haven’t taken a liking to the heat in the greenhouse on some of the days, or my erratic watering, and have suffered as a result. So, I need to sow some more climbing beans and peas. I also want to get some dwarf beans started; they’re a family favourite, but have somehow got through the seed ordering and sowing net. Outside, there’s more rows of carrots to sow and I’ve got some great purple cauliflower to sow too. Towards the end of the month it will be time to sow Florence fennel seeds too. These delicious bulbs cost so much in the shops, so I’m hoping to grow them at the plot successfully and save myself a few quid.

A lot of the jobs for this month are related to keeping the crops growing. So weeding, watering, mulching and general maintenance of the plants will be a key job. The warm weather we’re due means it’s time to plant out the ever increasing squashes and courgettes. I’ve prepared the soil already, but will add a bit more organic matter before planting them out. Hopefully, we’ll be enjoying a plentiful supply of courgettes and winter squash well into the latter part of the year. In addition, we have discovered a big leak in our pond which means that most of the water has drained out. The newts and a few tadpoles seem to be happy enough in the remaining concentrated soup of a pond, but I think if we can reline the pond all will be a lot happier! Any ideas on a cheap way to get a suitable pond liner?

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.



May at Plot 4

April is one of my favourite months. It’s the time of year when the garden, the allotment, everything is growing. We’ve had some cold and wet weather, but its been pretty sunny of recent weeks, and the sun has started to transform the plot.

The month that has just finished is the first of the year to have new produce to harvest, as well as the stalwart that is Swiss chard.  Only the other day we were able to pick the first few delicate broad beans.  I love harvesting the first of these beans, sliding my finger along the shell and opening it to reveal the lime green beans in their silken bed. To be honest, the majority of the crop is not quite ready, but my wife and I couldn’t resist a quick nibble on these sweet treats. We’ve also be harvesting a few radishes (the globe variety grown in boxes in the cold frame) and the first of the salad leaves.

I started sowing with enthusiasm during April, and this will continue into May with beans, peas, beetroot, chard, fennel, cavalo nero and cime di rapa all to sow. Every year I get excited by the coming of spring and good weather, sow a load of seeds and then have too many plants, then end up with a glut. I’m determined this year to sow successionally, so I’ll be curbing my enthusiasm and only sowing a few seeds every few weeks. This way I aim to keep the crops coming, but not have them coming out of my ears!

I’ve pretty much completed the big winter jobs at the plot. I’ve managed to get the fence fixed, water butts sorted and have even managed to construct a netted protection frame for some of the crops. During May I need to create another of these netted cloches, but without a doubt the major job for this month is weeding. The crops are growing, but so are the weeds. So battle commences again for the year!

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.


April at Plot 4

March has been a bit of a mixed bag at the allotment. We’ve had barmy, sunny, spring days; but also frost nipping at the young shoots of growth. I’ve started sowing then had to wrap things up as it became colder and colder. Its been a stop start spring. All this has meant that I’ve not really got myself sorted in terms of planning where I will plant everything, and even now I’m a bit behind the digging. On the plus side, after 9 years of having the allotment I have finally finished creating a fence around it all. The wonderful and free resource that is pallets has been my supporter in this task, and I’ve even used pallets to create a vertical salad planter.

The plot is still producing, though only a few of the vegetables from last year are ready for harvest at the moment. There is still Swiss chard of course, and we’ve used the last of the root vegetable supply recently to make some super delicious Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps. Perhaps the star of the show has been the increasingly frequent emergence of the ‘Allotment Salad’ on our plates. Its been a delight to sit down at lunch (once or twice outside even) to a vibrant salad of fresh leaves from the allotment. Teamed with a mustard dressing, they have really given this month a lift and convinced us it really is spring.

As I mentioned above I’ve been sowing with earnest and the tomatoes in particular are really developing well; they’ve been pricked out to one plant per module and I’m looking forward to potting them on during the month ahead.  I’ve already sown a few peas, but the majority of them have been snaffled by some small rodent visitors to the greenhouse. I decided to grow them in the greenhouse in order to avoid mice digging them up outside, but it seems I’ve been thwarted and they have followed the seeds into the glazed warmth. Not to be deterred, I’ll re-sow this month; and will do so in raised lengths of guttering to add a further obstacle into the path of my rodent friends. Whilst at the fabulous Weald Allotment shop I picked up some new 6ft tall climbing peas (a heritage variety called Telephone) to give a go. It will be interesting to see if we get many of the harvest peas home this year, they’re usually grabbed and devoured at the plot by the family before they get a chance to be put in the pot. April is also the time to start to sow winter squashes. They’re hungry crops, so need a good amount of manure and other organic matter to be put on the bed before they’re planted out later in the year. We’re going to sow Crown Prince again this year; but also a couple of Italian varieties, Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia and Pumpkin Padana. This selection should keep us going into the winter months. What winter squashes do you grow?

One of the big jobs last month was to finish the fence around the plot, but it does leave me with the task of painting it and also tying in the blackberry so that it is easily managed when the fruits form in the months to come. One of the last construction jobs to do is to create another cover to prevent birds eating the brassicas. I’ve got some old blue piping and I’m going to be constructing a hooped design to hang netting on. Hopefully the birds will then not compete with the mice for the amount of crops they can eat! As the soil warms up, so do the weeds and so one of the big jobs over the next few weeks is to give the plot a good weed and try to keep on top of those perennials which I don’t really want reappearing. The potatoes will go in to, although I think I’ll wait until the end of April for the majority of them, planting them in 15cm deep trenches about 5-6cm apart.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.


March at Plot 4

February has been a pretty rough month here on the south coast. It seems its rained for most of the month and the allotment is wetter than ever. Still, the last week of the month has brought glimmers of spring and I’m writing this sat in my light filled kitchen with thoughts of seed sowing and the spring preparations in my head.

We are well and truly into the ‘hungry gap’ and I’ve only been able to harvest a bit of produce from the plot. The Swiss chard continues to be a stalwart and has provided us with many a meal over the last few weeks. The rocket and other salads have also been gracing our plates, recently teamed with a rather delicious tartiflette made by my wife. We still have some Jerusalem artichokes in the ground and they need to be eaten before they begin to sprout and start growing again. However hard you try you can never get all the tubers out of the soil, so you’re guaranteed a crop next year. Many of the artichokes have gone into a beautifully creamy puree to accompany fish or grilled meats.

Hopefully we have had the last of the winter storms and the weather will be warming a little; I’ve rebuilt or reglazed the greenhouse too many times this winter, and the greenhouse is bound to fill up this month as sowing starts with earnest. I’ll be sowing tomatoes in the greenhouse, bought from the fabulous Franchi Seeds (a little more pricey than some seed companies, but the packets are always packed with seeds and they have a great range of varieties so justify the few extra pennies). Like the celeriac of last month, the parsnips need a good length of growing, so I’ll be pre-germinating some seeds this month before sowing in plugs in the greenhouse.

Last month’s rain has meant that many of the jobs I wanted to get completed in February have not been finished. I potted up some strawberry runners at the end of last year and have been gifted some strawberry plants too. So, I need to prepare a new strawberry bed by digging in some manure and compost to give the plants the best start possible. Strawberries are such a good crop to grow, as they cost a bomb in shops, and are pretty simple to grow. Apart from protecting them from the birds later in the year, the only problem is managing to get them home to use in meals, rather than being picked and eaten there and then. Its not just beds for strawberries that need preparation, once the wet soil drains a little I need to dig in compost and manure and prepare the whole plot for the growing season. In particular, I’ll be piling manure onto the squash patch, so when I plant squash out later in the year they will have an abundant source of organic matter to gorge themselves on.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

February at Plot 4

The year has started with unusually wet and mild weather for this time of the year. Indeed, yesterday it was announced it has been a record wet January in this part of the country. The plot is really quite damp, with our clay soil almost impossible to walk on, let alone dig, and puddles forming everywhere!

We’ve been still managing to harvest the last of the tenderstem broccoli, often used with penne, tomatoes, anchovies and chilli, in a version of this Cime di Rapa dish. As well as broccoli, we’ve been enjoying cavalo nero, chard and the final few apples. The apples were cooked and topped with a crumble like the one on the Blackberry and Apple Crumble I blogged about in the autumn.

February is the month when I’ll be starting to sow seeds with a vengeance. On the list are some more sweet peas (I started some off a few weeks ago) and celeriac. Celeriac needs a long season of growth, so will benefit from an early start in the greenhouse. I love this root, but have never grown it and am really looking forward to using it later in the year to make remoulades and soups. It’s also time to sow some more salad leaves; started in the greenhouse, but hopefully put out as the weather improves.

This month is one of the last months to get general jobs done at the plot. The tool shed is in need of a tidy and before the rush for seed trays in the Spring they need to be cleaned and organised. I also plan to use this time to finish insulating the shed, which my brother and I started last week. In true allotment style we reused some leftover insulation from my brother’s house extension, and intend to try to complete the job using reclaimed and recycled materials to skin the shed interior and protect the insulation. The final seed purchases will also be made; there are a few varieties in the Franchi Seed catalogue which I fancy giving a go this year.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

January at Plot 4

After a month ending in the excesses of Christmas it will be a relief to get back to the plot a little more during January. It’s a month of new starts and beginnings and as such I’ll be spending some of the days when the winter weather prevents a visit to the plot planning the growing year ahead. As yet I have no real plans, no must have new crops; but I’m sure after a few minutes perusing the seed catalogues that will change. By the end of the month I hope to have ordered and started chitting my seed potatoes, finalised the seed purchases for the new year, and I might have even planted a few peas in the relative warmth of the greenhouse.

There are still vegetables to harvest, with the prospect of frosts meaning that our parsnips will have developed their cold induced sweetness. Chard, Cavalo Nero and Broccoli are still thriving and will no doubt make their way into the a few soups, or onto the plate with a winter stew. The Jerusalem artichokes are also waiting patiently in the ground and will come into their own as the cold sets in, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous potato.

The start of a new year offers the opportunity for a fresh look at things, as well as the chance to look back at what has worked in the year that’s just finished. For me this not only means at the allotment, but also across my life. So when I’m planning my seeds and where to put them I’ll be also thinking about how my life will develop in the months ahead. What do I want to do this year? What do I see myself doing this time next year? How can I ensure I have time for mindfulness? I’m not sure of the answers to these questions, but am determined to find some of the answers over the next few months and continue to develop my recipe for a changed life.
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December at Plot 4

It’s getting colder now and most days when I visit the plot after the school run I’m greeted with a delicate frosty blanket on the sage bush near the gate. It’s definitely winter and the log burner in the shed is coming into its own, proving a great place to go and warm up or dry off if the weather deteriorates. Despite this there are many things I want or need to do this month.

The shed itself needs a little more work on it, with a combination of bubble wrap and the leftover insulation from my brother’s extension. The plan is to cut the sheets to size, fitting them between the uprights of the shed. The bubble wrap I’ve got insulating the wall at present will be repurposed in the greenhouse; allowing us to continue to grow throughout the colder months.

There is still a bit of harvesting to be done with the last of the Cime di Rapa, as well as Cavalo Nero and the broccoli to pick. I’ll also be giving the brassicas a bit of a helping hand through winter; removing any yellowing leaves which may harbour disease, as well as firming the soil around the roots to give them a secure base. The winter digging will of course continue, with more manure and last years compost to add to the soil as space becomes available.

Winter is also the time when we should look after the birds that visit the allotment; so I plan to increase the number of feeders, including some for the ground feeders like Robins. I’m also planning to put up a new bird box to encourage nesting next summer. I’ve just got to source some wood which hasn’t been earmarked for the log burner!

November at Plot 4

We’re getting a new shed at the allotment; a larger one, with a wood burner. The site of the shed is the present compost area, so I’ve had to respite the bins. This is a good time to empty compost bins, allowing more space for the autumn clear up. I’ll spread the compost on the empty beds, turning it in as we have really heavy soil. The worms and frost should work together over the winter to give a better structure to the soil.

Some of the compost will also be used as a mulch for our dahlias. It tends to be relatively mild in general; so the dahlia tubers don’t need to be lifted, but can be covered in 10cm or so of compost as an insulating blanket. That should keep the dahlias snug through the winter, ready to flourish again next year.

Whereas dahlias could need lifting, I’ve been planting daffodil bulbs and I’ll be planting tulips soon too. We’ve always had a few tulips at the plot, but this year I intend to plant more – so we can have a few cut flowers for the house. I’ll plant some under the apple tree to add some early season colour; I’ll also plant some as part of a corridor of bulbs (lining the main path). The tulip bulbs need to be in the ground before the cold comes, so allowing their roots to establish. They should be planted in a hole roughly three times their height; and if, like our plot, the soil doesn’t have good drainage, they benefit from some grit at the bottom of the hole.

The plot also needs a bit of a tidy, with brambles and trees to prune and wood chip paths to replenish. Still this should give some fuel for a bonfire in a few days time!