Sunday, 20 April 2014

Seeds, Sprouts, Buds and Sun

Carrot Seeds. And my hand.
The coinciding of a bank holiday with some of the finest weather of the year so far allowed us to put in a pretty full day on the plot on Saturday, sandwiched around a very pleasant and allotment-related trip to Wylam Nurseries. Much was sowed, prepared, bought, tilled and picked, the highlights of which herewith.

Raised bed, prepped for carrot seeds
Lets do sowing first. We called into action the first of our raised beds. These had been sitting full of soil improver and a smattering of manure for a few weeks. I've heard conflicting ideas about the suitability of the Council's soil improver as a growing medium; good authority had it that it's too rich to grow into directly and will "burn" the plantlings, but I then heard from an allotment neighbour that this was exactly what he'd done when taking over a plot. His soil had been unusable due to having been used as a dump so he'd gone down the raised bed route filling them with the same stuff we've got.

Carrot seeds in
As a compromise I decided to dig through it into the soil underneath to mix it up a bit. We then scraped out shallow drills, scattered in seed compost, thinly sowed carrot seeds, a touch more seed compost on top and then gave a good soak. We've never managed to get any carrots going before at all so any result will be welcome. The suitability of these beds and their contents for said crop is moot, but I look forward to finding out what happens. I'm in the market for some carrot-fly proof mesh, any suggestion appreciated.

Also sowed were a good few rows of beetroot (in addition to those we've started at home in modules) and parsnips. Parsnips are the one thing that has always done consistently well for us sowed directly. Will it maintain its winning streak?

Parsnip seeds in
We also topped up our broad bean patch with some bought previously from Wylam Nurseries. The broad bean patch is now a real pick and mix of a few survivors from the autumn, those we grew from seed and planted out a couple of weeks ago and those planted on Friday. No idea which are which or even which kind any of them are, not very scientific of us.

Mix and match broad beans
Hello you
In really quite exciting news our solitary Cox's Pippen apple tree is springing into life, unfurling the odd bit of green here and there. We never did get to the bottom of what the downy coating it developed was, but it doesn't seem to be doing any harm, he says fatefully.

On realising we didn't have enough compost to complete the day's planned sowings we decided upon an impromptu trip out to Wylam. I don't think the nurseries there are the cheapest around, but everything we've had from them had seemed to do well, so it's starting to become our go-to spot for all things plant related. They've got some serious glasshouse real-estate, filled with all manner of edibles and ornamentals. Great for cheating if something you've sown yourself hasn't worked out (see broad beans).

You should find what you're after here I'd have thought
As the weather was so ridiculously clement we took a quick stroll along the riverside, had a bit of a picnic and picked some of the bounteous wild garlic from the woods. That went into the night's dinner, spaghetti with chorizo and a wild garlic pesto. Full of wildness and green and very delicious indeed.

The Tyne, looking rather rather I'd say.
Wild garlic aplenty. Plus, pretty blue flowers.
It was then back to the plot for a bit more sowing and graft to finish off the day. I weeded a patch of border which was full of couch grass, the roots of which are absolute shits. I got rid of as much as I could and sowed some nasturtiums. I was super chuffed to see that our recently planted peas, in the same border, have survived a couple of recent light frosts and are doing their pea thing, reaching tendrils out in serch of something to climb.

Healthy looking peas
After flirting with the idea of a new cherry tree from Wylam, we'd settled on a few strawberry plants to bolster and extend our rather messy looking patch, and the beginnings of a gooseberry bush. In these went. The strawbs are "Cambridge Favourite" and they have an RHS AGM thingy, so there!

Strawberries old and new
Watering in the goosberry
All that was left was to give things a wetting - we're running very low on barrelled water, so the previously vandalised main supply will hopefully come back on stream soon - and gather up the first rhubarb harvest of the year. Some of this went into a very good loaf-cake Kasia baked, the remainder of which I fancy doing as an accompaniment to an oily fish like mackerel or herring. 

So, a really great day sur le plot, and a mini trip out to boot, it felt like we got loads done. The only thing concerning me about the upcoming season is that we haven't really brought much manure into our patches over the winter, just a bag or two here and there. Hopefully chicken pellets will keep things going until we can take delivery a proper motherload of cow crud this autumn. Apart from that minor worry, things are looking dandy-o. We've got a tonne of stuff in modules at home, all the spuds are in and things are looking neat. There's nothing quite like being able to say "looking good!" as you do that final survey of the plot, the sun's power fading all the while. "Gin and tonic?" "Yeah, too right."


  1. I made a rhubarb sauce to accompany pork and am going to have a go at pork and rhubarb burgers.You do pull your rhubarb rather than cut it don't you?
    We just do a search of the internet for insect proof enviromesh and go for the best offer. Buy fairly wide sheets as carrots can grown higher than you would expect.

    Love the lonely little bluebell - hope lots more join it.

    1. kasia...the usually silent other half of patchy growth!21 April 2014 at 09:41

      You have given us a top tip there Sue! I had been cutting it but a quick google on rhubarb harvest just whipped us in to shape on that one! Thank you for that!

      I bought lee a mincer for his birthday a few years ago and it has hardly been used! Please do let us know how the rhubarb and pork burgers go and the recipe....would be curious to try ourselves!

    2. Glad to help - always a bit wary as I didn't want to be 'telling you what to do'. I'll definitely post about the burgers.I also have a post about rhubarb crumble muffins that I made last year which are delicious. Just do a search in my sidebar

    3. Not at all, thanks Sue. Good advice is hugely appreciated; whatever we are, experts is not it! I'll have a go at those muffins. Cheers, Lee.

    4. No such thing as an expert gardener - we all learn things every day"

  2. Seems it was the weekend for full days on th plots. I probably have some rhubarb ready but as I have transplanted it to the bee plot and didn't get over there this weekend I haven't harvested any...plenty of time though!!


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