Making a new strawberry patch…

Now that the strawberries have well and truly “gone over” I decided to tidy up the patch by cutting back all of this years foliage, along the way I gathered up the multitude of runners that had developed. Most of them had rooted within the straw of the bed and were easy enough to put to one side.

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With the current patch tidy, and a mass of healthy runners, a new patch was in order! We didn’t manage to completely fill the plot this year (although we did come close) so I felt we were able to allow another bed for our fave fruit!

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After weeding the bed that I had in mind, armed with a board to stand on and a little trowel I popped in quite a few rows of little plants.

img_0031After gaining a little more experience in this allotment business we have learnt to not necessarily try to grow everything but to focus more on the foods that we really enjoy. We’re also beginning to get a feel for the kind of yield we can expect.

As I have said from the moment we began though, we’ll just get stuck in and learn as we go!

Sarah X

The Raspberry Glut

It’s blissful to be back on the plot again, and I’m beginning to understand the “gluts” that people have spoken about. Our first year “in production” gave us some fruit and veg which I was thrilled with but definitely not more than we could cope with.

I am noticing though, that our raspberries are very productive this year, I can clear the bushes one day, go back the next and there are another few punnets ready again…fabulous stuff!!

We’re very keen on the nutri-bullet in our house, so the main thing for us is to get them washed and into the freezer ready for those winter smoothies and a taste of late summer! Maybe it’s me but I have noticed that when pulled off the plant, the fruit turns very quickly and we often see it go to waste, I think in snipping the fruit off though (like dead heading) it does last a little longer. I’ve also read that a white vinegar bath can help preserve fruit naturally.

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People complain that shop bought fruit goes off quickly, when that happens to me, it’s a reassuring sign that not too many nasties have been sprayed on it!

Now that we’ve got the plot in ‘proper’ production my thoughts are turning to other ways of using our berries…flavoured vodka, cakes, puddings, jams and ice-creams maybe?! We will certainly continue in our organic ways and work out how to speed up our storage process!

Sarah x

 

A Busy Little Plot!

The plot has been fantastically busy of late and we are taking home lots of fresh fruit and veg! Such a great feeling after so much work! There’s even been enough to share with friends. I thought I’d give you a little update of how things are going!

Firstly, like most other gardeners we have been tackling the weeds and lots of them, I don’t think this has been helped though by our decision to use horse manure, we now have lots and lots of grass in big clumps that constantly need trimming and turning over. In some places this is fine, as it serves to create grassy areas where we want them but in others, it’s a nightmare. I will be using other means of soil improvement in the future.

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The Fruit Cage
Around the fruit cage we threw down some poppy seeds which have given a good show but they are now going over, the bees seemed to love them at their peak though. In the fruit cage the gooseberry bush is looking healthy, no fruit yet though. The new redcurrant and blueberry buses that we planted are looking strong and much bigger, I’m hoping they will fruit next year. There’s quite a bit of open ground in the fruit cage, where I am allowing the grass to grow around the bushes, I’m keeping this down by strimming.

The Rhubarb Patch
Now, I have been told that I probably have too many rhubarb plants and I must admit, we haven’t gone short! It is something that seems to be gratefully received by friends, so until I feel that I need the additional space, I’ll let the current plants do their thing. Around the rhubarb we managed to squeeze an early row of crimson flowering broad beans, but I did make the mistake of not giving them enough support and they did get rather battered by winds earlier in the season. Along side the rhubarb we also managed a couple of teepee structures, one for runner beans and one for kelvedon wonder peas, both of which are producing aplenty! We also have two rows of red onions in that are too, which we are now taking as required.

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The Herb Patch
The herbs are one of the few things that we haven’t moved around since the first layout of the plot. We find that it’s working well having the herb garden next to the entrance to the plot, for those days when you just want to dash and grab for tea! So far we have rosemary, thyme, peppermint, marjoram, sage, a gorgeous lemon balm (great for tea), oregano and curry leaf. I’m also going to move the bay tree up into this area, when I take the peas out.

Potatoes
To the right of the entrance, up until last week we had our early potatoes which we are now eating. There are also two other locations on the plot which have a healthy show of spuds, we haven’t touched these yet though. Next year this funny shaped bed will be our cut flower area I think (I have been know to change my mind though!).

The Children’s Plots
I have been amazed at how well the kids have responded to having a little piece of ground of their own. Their plots have been entirely planted and maintained by themselves, giving them a huge sense of pride in their areas and a grin from ear to ear when anything actually produces food! All they were given were a few seeds or young plants and some basic instructions as to what that plant would need and away they went! I will be moving them onto another area in the spring to ensure good rotation.

Mixed Veg Areas
We have probably been a little unconventional in our layout, in that much of our plot is a mish mash! Down the right hand side we now have shallots, radish (not doing to well), corn on the cob, beetroot, dwarf runner beans and broccoli. These are all youngish plants that I’m not quite sure if they will produce much at this time of year, but it’s worth giving it a go! To the left we have celery, more peas, kale, tomatoes, courgettes and leeks and potatoes.

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Brassicas
I’m really pleased to say that this year we are having much more luck with our cabbages, in that we have cabbages! Edible cabbages! We also have some healthy looking romanesco, cauliflower, sprouts and more broccoli.

Salad
This has been an ongoing thing for us, we are slowly improving with our succession growing and have had some really tasty lettuce and spring onions. We have unfortunately had an entire batch of baby gem wiped out by slugs, so armed with ‘slug gone’ are giving them another go. In the communal greenhouse, we have some slow to get going toms, but are now looking great and will hopefully ripen before then end of the season. We also have toms on the plot that are looking good too. I really must label things with a little more detail now that we are getting into it though as I really can’t remember what varieties we are growing. There are clearly differences, but I labelled them all ‘toms’!

Fruit
Aside from the fruit cage bushes we are also growing summer and autumn raspberries and strawberries. The strawberry runners are working themselves into a row of peas so that’s top of my to-do list to pot some of those runners and get rid of the unwanted ones, seems a shame but there’s so many it’s difficult to keep them all. I may add in strawberry plants in between my raspberry canes though.

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The Wildlife Area
I think this little spot deserves a post of it’s own, but in short, I couldn’t be happier with the way it has turned out, poppy’s, nasturtiums, cornflowers, lots of wildflowers and weeds have completely brought the area to life. We have been rewarded with little frogs and many different mini beasts, I’m hoping this little corner will give great balance to our plot naturally (I hope the frogs eat the slugs!).

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The Shed
Since taking on the plot I have been desperate for a shed! Finally we got there, after a day of flatpack hell, I now have a little spot to shelter from the rain, grab a brew and change my wellies. It’s made a big difference in our ability to ‘pop in’ to the allotment rather than hauling lots of stuff with us each time. The shed warming party went down a treat too! Next on my shopping list is a greenhouse, maybe in the sales…we’ll see!

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There’s lots of other little growing nooks that we have created including out teepee grow house but I’ll cover some more in another post. Well done and thank you if you have read down this far! I’d love to hear how you are getting on too!

Sarah x

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Straw for the strawberry beds

After relocating the strawberry bed late last year, I’m pleased to see that the new runners are now great little plants and all is looking well!

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We now have quite a few flowers on the plants and in anticipation of some fruit I decided to pick up some straw to go around them.

As you may of seen from my instagram feed, I initially laid and pegged down a sheet of heavy duty membrane, which I then cut holes and planted the strawberry plants through.

I have now spread straw all around the area to stop the berries lying on the membrane and going rotten quickly. Although from what I can remember from last year, I’ll need to be pretty snappy about picking the fruit anyway!

Now the decision of whether to “straw” the pathways, I just love the look!

Sarah :O)

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The Allotment in Spring Time! 

A frosty morning in Derbyshire

It’s been a busy time of things here! This spring is the first that I’ve actually been able to get some seeds started ready for the allotment and we’re all finding it very exciting!

Our first spring on the plot was a little less organised, not for lack of hard work, but we just didn’t have enough ground dug to think about much else. This time last year was all about the clearing!

I’m really pleased to say that at this current point in time we are pretty much in top of things! There’s still so much that I’d like to do with the space and obviously get lots of food growing but that feeling of being completely overwhelmed has begun to subside. With my experience gained last year  I now realise that just a couple of weeks of neglect and the weeds will be back in charge so I’m doing my very best not to let that happen!

The past month or so we have managed to get a good amount of seeds started, flowers and veg. I’m going to experiment with getting some started early in our little greenhouses and starting others a little later straight outside. We’ll see!

We’ve managed to start shaping our wildlife area too, this is going to be a fun project that the kids are really enthusiastic about!

I had managed to clear much of my  compost heap, using much of the fab stuff that came from it to shape the area where the pond will be. That was until the very spot was filled with a trailer load off free horse muck! Too good an offer to be fussy about my freshly cleared ground!

I’m not sure if the muck has rotted down enough to use straight where I’m growing but I have plenty of areas that would welcome a good layer of muck mulch, which can be dug in later in the year!

I mentioned to my husband when I wondered how things had changed in life that I was so excited at the prospect of a truckload of free poo!

Our Allotment Plan 2016

I’ve had lots of fun over the past couple of months creating my plan for our dream allotment and here it is!

There’s no hard and fast rules about sticking to this but I’m happy to have a great guide in my pocket of how I saw things fitting in at the beginning of the year.

We’ll also be dotting in little homes for wildlife along our way too!

I look forward to taking photos throughout the year and let you know how we get on with each area.

Sarah x

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Pruning the Gooseberry Bush

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A very lovely lottie neighbour of ours gave us our first gooseberry bush this time last year. It did really rather well over the summer producing more fruit than I was expecting.  I have recently moved the plant down to the bottom of the plot nearby the redcurrant, so that they can both share the fruit cage (when I build/buy one).

It was beginning to look a little scruffy and in need of pruning. I have generally given it a good tidy up, taking any dead wood out and removing any branches that are close to the ground. From reading up on how to do the job I have also taken some of the branches from the centre out in order to aid good airflow throughout the bush and reduce the chance of disease.

Hopefully the ‘trim’ will have done it good and we’ll have a good crop next year!

Raspberries on the Move!

I’ve been wanting to move our raspberry canes for a while. Their first position was literally the area that we began to dig over when we took on the plot. Now that I’m ready to start planning with a little more thought, it was time to get them on the move!

The area that I had in mind was at the very back of the plot. I’m told by my lottie neighbour that they make great wind breaks (which we are much in need of) and are more than hardy enough to stand up to the job. I’d also like a little more privacy for our planned ‘secret garden’ pond, wildlife and picnic area, so this will be a great start towards that!

Our plants our Autumn fruiting, despite there being a few berries still being produced, I felt they had slowed enough to transplant them. I decided to move them before pruning back, so that I could get a good idea of what they would look like in the spring.

Having already begun spreading membrane towards the back of the plot and generally tidying up, I began moving them to their new position in the membrane. I will have to open this up a little in the spring to allow for new growth but for now it should be fine. I hope!

After moving and feeling happy with the layout I then pruned them back to about 20cm. Happy moving day raspberries!

Relocating the Strawberry Patch

At the end of September I began the arduous task of weeding the strawberry patch. An absolute nightmare! So much horseradish and dandelion had sprouted up in between the strawberry plants that it just became impossible to dig the weeds out without removing the plants, so I decided to relocate to an area that I had covered over with membrane shortly after taking over the allotment last year. A ready made patch. All I planned to do was cut slits in the fabric and pop the plants in!

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It didn’t take too long really to get the plants into their new home, first row of mainly runners, second and third rows of more established plants.

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I found that with the huge amount of strong runners, I had far more plants than I was expecting left over, a couple I gave to my lovely lottie neighbour Angie (The Barefoot Gardener) and some I have brought home to pot up on the drive. The rest that I couldn’t bare to throw on the compost heap I have been trying to find a little home for around the lottie.

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When first digging over the plot I unearthed an old hanging basket, completely battered but I’ve tried to bring it back to life with a couple of runners. You can never have too many strawberries right?

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Hopefully the plants will be happy with their new view, and next winter we will have a good stock of strawberry jam!