Thursday, 23 July 2015

Crop Protection

At some point many crops need protection from birds or insects or from the weather/sunshine etc

I dislike using soft plastic or nylon mesh nets as birds can easily get caught in them, in fact I rescued a blackbird from underneath someone else's the other week. However, more sturdy metal mesh can be used to protect against birds or cabbage white butterflies as slow below:

This mesh is approx 10ft long and arranged in a triangular prism so that it can allow plants to grow tall underneath as necessary.

This photo shows it protecting our lettuces, which we found are a tasty treat for House Sparrows, in fact they tell their friends and all have quite a party nibbling them down to a stump if unprotected. Interestingly, this behaviour has only been noticed in the past couple of years, maybe they just got away with it before then, or maybe their tastes have changed.....

Now, it is over the blueberries as Blackbirds and thrushes will gobble the lot if left unprotected!





Some of our allotment neighbours have a problem with pigeons going after cabbages, however this only seems to be in the more "open" allotments, ours has hedges around and I think that it is the enclosed nature of the allotment that pigeons do not like - in fact I have seen pigeons sitting on the fence at the back, having a nosy and then ignoring our cabbages in favour of ones in a more open allotment!

As is said in this earlier post disguising crops by planting flowers in amongst them is a good idea, and I have also found that garlic and onions in with carrots will help reduce carrot flies (the best defence is height!), some people use very small knit mesh or fleece. Garlic barrier spray works well on peas and beans and damsons to some extent.













Flowers in the Allotment

When people find out that I have an allotment, quite often they say, "You must be a really keen gardener!"
The answer to that is that I spend a lot of time growing vegetables but am not knowledgable in the slightest about flowers! (apart from the obvious ones like knowing what a daffodil looks like!)

However, flowers can play a very useful part in the allotment, both to attract pollenators and also to act as diversions from or indeed mask vegetables from the nasties that might want to eat or lay eggs on them.

Marigolds (Tagetes)

 
Marigolds are said to be able to deter aphids, attract some pollenators and the Tagetes Minuta variety (not shown) has been researched and shown to be able to clear ground of persistent weeds.

Ours now self seed and live down near the far end of the allotment, which this year is around the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic and parsnips.









Nasturtiums


The nasturtiums are going mad! This is the top end of the allotment near the gate, and this is what greeted us in the middle of the pea and bean patch after we had come back from holiday.

Some people eat nasturtium leaves, battered or fried apparently. Can't say I have tried, or indeed want to try this myself but the rabbit we used to have liked them!

The do seem to attract blackfly, so act as a diversionary plant for beans, especially broad beans which can be prone to them. (A tip with broad beans is to remote the growing tip once enough beans have set and it is tall enough as required)

Again ours self seed.




Cosmos

Cosmos are good for attracting butterflies and also the seeds at the end of season are attractive eating for bird.

These are planted around the carrot tyre stacks to hide the black tyres.












Sunflowers

Quite apart from the fun of growing tall sunflowers, and their general attractiveness, the seeds of these can be collected in Autumn to put in bird feeders or indeed give to some small pet animals.
Alternatively leave on the plant for Goldfinches and other birds to peck at in situ.

They do suck up a lot of water and create shade so ensure that there's a bit of space around them, don't try to grow other vegetables too close. That being said the shade is good to stop cauliflower heads going yellow and lettuces from going to seed in the strong summer sunshine.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Weeding peas

Weeding peas is a fiddly job! Peas need plenty of water but of course that encourages the weeds as well. In the gap between rows, hoeing is possible if you are careful but otherwise it is a hands and knees job!
Be very careful, peas at this stage, just flowering and producing the first peas, can be uprooted very easily and peas will often try and use the nearest object, e.g. a weed,  for support instead of all those pea sticks collected over previous months.
I have found that, despite getting dirt up fingernails and on hands, it is better to dispense with gardening gloves in order to pick out the weeds from in amongst the peas.

This year has been cold for them, the earliest pods did survive the frost but went a bit of a funny colour, but now there's plenty of pea flowers and pods forming. CDs on strings have also been used as a defence against sparrows looking for a nice bit of greenery to munch!

Monday, 18 May 2015

What's going on at the allotment - part 2

Despite the slow start, there is quite a lot of activity in the allotment and most of it is under cultivation. Eats at the moment are the very last of the leeks - they are getting a bit tough and the ends are swelling up into bulbs, a small bit of asparagus - picked very sparingly this year so as not to weaken the plant in the 3rd year of growth, some rhubarb and some broccoli.

 These are the overwintered onions and garlic.

Overwintered onions - sometimes called Japanese onions - are planted in September as sets and are hardy enough to stand even the coldest winters we get here.

There are 4 garlic plants among these. I planted a whole bulb's worth of them so I don't know what's happened to the others.......

These will be ready towards the end of June.

One of the garlics will be saved until next year, however you can just go to the supermarket, buy a garlic bulb, break it up, peel the papery skin off and plant! That's what we did when we first got the allotment!


Here are the strawberries, flowering with one or two very small strawberries forming.

In autumn last year, I dug out all the strawberry plants and runners, and gave the bed a really good weed, getting rid of as much of the invasive couch grass as possible. Then, putting in plenty of manure and compost, the best plants and runners (including some from the window box at home) went back in and certainly looking at them now it was worth the effort!








Blackcurrants - these seem to grow more and more currants every year, which is good providing you have an infinite freezer and an lifetime's supply of Kilner Jars!

They are turned into jam (along with the raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, some of the apples and the occasional blueberry!),










 and preserved in vodka!

What's going on at the allotment - part 1

It is now mid May and the weather doesn't seem to have warmed up any!
On my Twitter account
there are followers from various parts of the UK, and it is really quite interesting to see the difference in the growing conditions between such as Dorset and Kent - very much ahead in terms of what is ready, here in North Yorkshire and indeed in the northern parts of Scotland, where frost (and indeed snow a couple of weeks ago) are still a problem!




 Here is a general view of the allotment, with the poor peas that seem to have had everything against them this year, being pecked by sparrows until CDs on strings and mesh were deployed, frost and cold conditions, nearest the camera, with the potato patch next, and in the background the fruit area which has flourishing rhubarb. Beyond the fruit are areas for brassicas and for onions, carrots etc.










Here is a closer view of the potatoes....



 As you can see, I have already made ridges to save a bit of earthing up, the ridges have also meant that only a little covering up with earth was necessary to protect the earliest shoots from frost.

All the potatoes are in now, it has been a bit of struggle finding space due to the overwintering and indeed overrunning broccoli!
 








 Can't complain though, even at this time in May there's still some really nice purple brocolli to eat. That is, if you like brocolli - my family do but I don't! Really don't.....but I am happy to grow it for others to enjoy!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Eats, shoots and leaves part 2

What is ready to eat just now, sprouting broccoli, rhubarb, peppers in the house, salsify.

Eats, shoots and leaves part 1

Some pictures of the vegetables starting to pop up in the allotment.

First potatoes coming up, leek seedlings, asparagus, carrots.