My Poor Back

Fantastic day out on the patch. Not only did I manage to dig the rest of the second vegetable plot over but I also dug over the remaining grass edging strip and sowed more grass seed. The only digging left now is the fruit patch but that can wait for a week or so.

Next door, Gary’s started finishing off his workshop cladding so here are some pics of how things look now, before he starts on their patch. Exciting times!

And another picture for posterity of the rear of ours, before the changes begin. To be honest, nothing drastic is happening here – the chicken coop and static run (it’s the thing with the large green plastic sheet over it to stop the winds) will be moved from the right-hand side of the rear of the garage to this side, facing us. The chooks will then have the piece of ground in the foreground in which to graze – this will be split into two so we can alternate the ground. I’ll also add some moveable wigwam affairs made from crack willow for shelter and ‘things of interest’ that chickens like to cluster around. I may even add some low level bushes such as lavender for more shelter and decent bug-hiding places. Bit like hide and seek for the chooks.

More Digging

A quick post to say I’ve dug over a half of the second vegetable plot this afternoon. Tomorrow the rest of the plot will be dug and Sunday, sun willing, I’ll be setting more onion sets and sowing peas. Can’t wait! The sowing that is – the digging is just a necessary evil 😛

Oh – and for the record – it didn’t rain last night, but it *did* rain today – yay! Never thought I’d be glad to see rain! Mind you – it’s not often father-in-law gets things wrong. Scrub that – he never gets things wrong…

Sidetracked…

I had a few hours to kill (well – we never have hours to kill here, before they even begin to look free something pops up to kill them for you!) so I figured I’d get around to more digging – I’ve done so much the last few days I’m beginning to feel like a mole. Of course, getting to the allotment I see neat piles of chickweed and pebbles piled around the place left from the previous dig so they get moved to tidy the place up. When we drilled the grass seed in the acre we left, rather cleverly I thought, the piece that would become our allotment. Not so cleverly, the surveyor measured it slightly wrong, so the piece we left as earth was out along one length by 3 feet. I kept walking over this to get to the allotment beds, but a rising panic today meant I ended up digging this 80′ x 4′ strip pver, treading it down, and sowing grass seed before lightly harrowing it. My father-in-law said that March was a good month to sow grass seed, and preferably the day before it rains, so with the forecast being light rain tonight I figured it was do or die. It had better rain is all I can say…

Tomatoes & Chillis

Whilst digging and parsnip sowing were put on hold due to the ground being exceedingly claggy, there was still time to sow a few seedlings in propogators. This year is the first time we’re trying chillis, brought back from Devon by my parents – my dad’s a sucker for chillis, and Suz wanted to have a bash at them.

I adore tomatoes and this will be the third year I’ll be trying to grow the darned things. As we don’t yet own a greenhouse worth talking about (we have a small one that can fit a couple of grow bags in), the first year saw us with about 80 tomato plants outside. I hadn’t realised that pretty much every tomato seed you sow will sprout a plant, and being the sort that hates wasting anything, I gave about 40 away and planetd the rest. It was also the year that blight was rampant and before we knew it we were eating green tomato soup by the gallon before they all rotted away. Mind you – Suz has now perfected her green tomato soup recipe which will probably find its way on to here sometime. Last year the tomatoes succumbed to greenfly early on which meant we lost about 2 weeks of growth. They arrived, but much later than we’d hoped and therefore the crop was eaten in record time. This is the year of the tomato though, I have a feeling.

I treated the chilli seeds in the same way I treated the tomato seeds. I put about an inch of potting compost in a propogator, dibbed my finger in to make a shallow indent, and dropped a single seed in each dent. I then lightly brushed compost over the seeds, sprinkled vermiculite over the whole lot so it just covered the  soil, then sprayed the whole thing liberally. On goes the lid and it’s moved to an east-facing window until something happens. If you get a lot of sun where the propogator is placed then remove the plastic lid as it may get too warm inside for the seeds to germinate – the lid is there to retain moisture and to keep the temperature up where it needs to be, around 18C. You need to keep the compost damp, but not sodden, so a regular misting seems to do the trick.

Digging over the patch

So the promised sun didn’t materialise, but then does it ever? It was still warm enough to don wellies and scoot the barrow over to the new veggie patch in Acre Field (the default name seems to be sticking, how original…). We already have potatoes chitting on a window sill in the house, and have been for about a week now – ready for an Easter Sunday planting session as the old boys always do. You need 6 weeks to allow them to chit properly. Today’s task was to dig over one of the two 30′ square vegetable patches and plant around 100 shallots. Tomorrow’s labour of love is to dig the second 30′ square vegetable patch over and sow parsnip seed – something we should have done a few weeks ago if we’d owned a spare ice axe to dig through the ground.

The digging over of the patch also gave us ample opportunity to rid the area of larger stones, and to de-weed the little blighters that have popped up – mostly chickweed but also some groundsel and wild pansies. Single ones we hoed out, those more prolific we turned over with a spade to bury them as a cheap green manure, as we were advised to do by farmer John.

We’ve got two 30′ rows of shallots, bought from the local allotment society, and planted them 6″ apart, in rows 1′ apart, and placed just below the surface, using the most useful tool I own – a piece of dowling, lovingly hand-crafted, that fulfills the jobs of a spacing ruler, a string holder and a dibber. Each bulb will sprout around 8-10 bulbs which means we’ll be eating a lot of pickled onions!

As is getting the norm each time we dig here, we also unearthed some pottery, what looks like a couple of sherds of Midlands Purple Ware which was made and used between AD1450-1600, and a piece of flint that looks suspiciously like the base of an arrow head – which will make it either Paleolthic or Mesolithic. These are to add to the other 20 pieces we’ve already piled up from this 30′ square piece of land! If only we could find some Anglo Saxon gold 🙂